Special Cinema Spotlight: The Invisible Woman (2013)


I heard about this film a few months ago and I my interests were peaked once I found out that it was based on true facts and events. Did you know that Charles Dickens had a mistress for thirteen years (until his death) without anyone knowing for decades upon decades?

Okay so I know in these modern times it is not so shocking to hear about people cheating on their spouses or having a mistress or even having children outside and aside from their marriage, but it sure was shocking then.

Thing is, Dickens was such a smart cookie that he had all his correspondences with his mistress, Ellen (Nelly) Ternan destroyed as well as any others where he or she were mentioned. His own children with his wife, Catherine Dickens, with whom he had eleven with-ten that survived in total, kept the secret as well. It wasn't spoken about until his last child had past on in 1933.

What I found so intriguing about this story and situation was how Dickens was able to keep this so secret in Victorian times. I also found how Nelly was able to carry on and eventually marry and had children. I do think how could she have been able to do that if it was public knowledge that she was Charles Dickens's mistress.

So of course I had to see this film. The Invisible Woman (2013) stars Ralph Fiennes (who also directs the film) as Dickens and Felicity Jones as Nelly. I have to say that although there is little information about this affair, Fiennes depicts the character of Nelly being haunted by the memories of her past with Dickens.  I found this film very well edited and utterly haunting. I found myself not feeling sorry for any of the characters minus Mrs. Dickens but actually seeing the various sides of why people do the things they do and how complex relationships can be.

The Invisible Woman
Charles Dickens
The Invisible Woman

The coupling of Dickens and Nelly is slowly progressive, meaning they didn't rush into an affair but rather it was well thought out and considered heavily before moving forward with it. It did show Dickens in a light where you can see how someone as talented and creative as he was needed to be with someone who was more his intellectual equal. But to leave his wife of over twenty years and the mother of his ten surviving children so he can fulfill his physical and intellectual desires with someone else? I just don't know about that.

The film shows how tricky those decisions can be but I couldn't help thinking how utterly selfish it was for him to couple with a eighteen year old girl (he was 27 years older than her). If it wasn't for his celebrity could they haven kept it such a tight secret? And if he lived longer would she ever have had the chance for a marriage and children? I know that isn't for everyone but this was the 1800's.

It was a time when people did not divorce and leaving ones wife was not seen in good light. I do believe due to his reputation and his literary genius, many people looked beyond all of that and just saw Charles Dickens, the famous author. It is sort of like how celebrities are seen in comparison to the everyday person. How their exploits are swept under the rug and "forgotten" so easily due to whatever reason they are famous for.

The film is a delight and I felt as though I had the chance the peek into a story that hoped to be hidden forever. I also appreciate that Fiennes didn't embellish or fabricate for the sake of movie making but rather worked with the facts and information that is out there on Dickens and Ternan.

Have you heard of this story? Have you seen the film? What did you think?

Share this:


  1. I did not know that, wow! It's scarcely surprising though. So many people of fame (and plenty without it) fall into adulterous affairs. Sadly, it so often seems to come with the territory of life in the limelight. I very much want to see this movie now and to learn more about just what exactly Mr. Dickens was up to!

    ♥ Jessica

  2. I knew Dickens had a mistress, and was so excited when I first heard about this movie! Sadly I somehow missed watching it! I am definitely putting it back on my must watch list.
    ~xoxo, CoriLynn


Copyright © A Vintage Nerd || Exploring Old Hollywood Through Fashion, Film, & Books. Designed by OddThemes