Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens in this opulent period drama about the great novelist’s passionate, years-long secret affair with the young actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones; Like Crazy).
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Very traditional in its filmmaking style that neither excites visually or emotionally. Stilted adaptation that tells the story of Dickens unacknowledged love affair with a younger woman from his mid forties to his death and the lifelong regret/ ennui that she was left with. Felicity Jones is quite good here but Fiennes as director should have cast someone else in his part. In the end it is scholastic not engaging.
Although it is at moments confusing (perhaps as a consequence of the "actor directing himself" situation) this film has everything to catch you up: a great story, remarkable cinematography and a quite stunning art direction. You can even ignore the gender agenda: in a film this subtle, any subtext gets inevitably embellished. Nice film.
All the hallmarks of contemporary middlebrow filmmaking: over-reliance on scene-setting and music (e.g. 'American Hustle') to bolster otherwise threadbare content; character interactions and dialogue that foreground the central elements of story in a repetitive and heavy-handed manner; blatantly derivative stylistic devices (e.g. Malickian nature interludes); overall lack of specificity, clarity, patience or rigor.
Great production design, and Felicity Jones is strong, but the film itself winds up being rather dry and melodramatic. Fiennes has an eye for composition, but casting himself as Dickens makes this feel a bit like a vanity piece.