The Invisible Woman review (Blu-ray)

Fiennes' second turn in the directorial chair here is a vast contrast to his first effort. Whereas his modern day interpretation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus was bold and vigorous, The Invisible Woman is a quiet and nuanced costume drama steeped in repression. It's a sombre tale that unfortunately never achieves lift off despite the sterling work of all involved.

Jones is the unhappy schoolteacher residing in Margate in 1883. In flashback we see the reason for her torment. When a shy ingenue of 17 she was treading the boards as a not particularly gifted actress. But when she comes under the patronage of famed author Charles Dickens (Fiennes) her life is changed. Their clandestine relationship is played out with all the buttoned up intensity one could wish for.

Jones is superb at rendering the emotional torrents she feels with the utmost subtlety – she really does provide a convincing window into this confused woman's mindset with powerful but fastidious clarity. She gives the tale its heart and is exquisite in evoking the self control the character must display. Fiennes makes Dickens a somewhat flighty but likeable and caring individual. Conducting himself precisely at all times, one never feels he is taking advantage too much of the young girl. There is also an excellent performance from Scanlan as Dickens' long suffering wife - marvellous when registering the shock and sadness at hearing the news of their marriage ending.

Despite the fine work from the cast, it's a slow paced affair that takes a long time to get going – period trappings and costumes are all in good order but overall the tone is too tepid and cheerless to fully involve. Some exuberance and laughter in the couple's secret relationship would help leaven the relentless gloom. There's too much woe and sorrow and not enough joy and celebration.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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