Fiennes Brings Dickens To 'Perfect' Life In 'Invisible Woman'

The works of Charles Dickens have been made into literally hundreds of films and TV episodes, but almost nothing has been done with the great author's life, until now. Our reviewer says The Invisible Woman is an exceptional film about love, longing and regret.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. Time to hear from our film critic, the Kenneth Turan. He says the works of Charles Dickens have been made into literally hundreds of films and TV episodes, but almost nothing has been done with the great author's life. Until now and the film "The Invisible Woman."

KENNETH TURAN: "The Invisible Woman" is an exceptional film about love, longing and regret. Director and star Ralph Fiennes brings Charles Dickens to perfect life. This is classic filmmaking done with passion, sensitivity and intelligence, fully capable of blowing you away.

It was 1857, when the 45-year-old celebrated writer first met 18-year-old actress Nelly Ternan, wonderfully played by Felicity Jones. They seemed soulmates from their first conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE INVISIBLE WOMAN")

RALPH FIENNES: (as Charles Dickens) A wonderful fact to reflect upon that every human creature is a profound secret and mystery to every other.

FELICITY JONES: (as Nelly Ternan) Until that secret is given to another to look after, and then perhaps two human creatures may know each other.

TURAN: This was not just a fling between a married author and a star-stuck young woman. Rather it was a difficult, near-impossible relationship that neither party rushed into, and the film does justice to its emotional complexities. Here Dickens talks in code to Nellie's mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE INVISIBLE WOMAN")

KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS: (as Frances Ternan) My daughter is a fine young woman. Sometimes I'm anxious for the future.

FIENNES: (as Charles Dickens) I understand. If I may be of assistance in any way.

THOMAS: (as Frances Ternan) I cannot risk Nelly's reputation.

FIENNES: (as Charles Dickens) I hope that nothing I could offer would compromise her.

TURAN: Screenwriter Abi Morgan's script takes no sides, but rather enables us to experience this story from every possible angle, to live every one of its lives. The film also goes back and forth between Nelly at two stages in her life: as the 18-year-old ingenue and the 40-something wife and mother she became after Dickens died.

Everything about "The Invisible Woman," from its lived-in recreation of Victorian Britain to its compelling acting, point to a committed and precise director. But Ralph Fiennes is also a commanding actor, and his splendid performance is icing on the cake.

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GREENE: That's the voice of Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for us at MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times.

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GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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