The Invisible Woman takes place during two time periods: the one described above with Nelly as a young woman, and a time many years later, when Dickens has long since died and Nelly finds herself married to the owner of a school for boys. As she directs the students in Dickens' plays, she reflects upon her past as a young girl and the choices she made in her life. The viewer is taken on a journey with Nelly, one of love and sadness, her life with Charles Dickens.
I must admit, I had no idea that a secret mistress existed in Dickens' life until I saw this film. Based upon the biography by Claire Tomalin, the film chronicles the relationship between Ternan and Dickens, showing it for exactly what it was - a forbidden love that both parties engaged in, regardless of the pain it caused to themselves and others. I found the film quite interesting and I find myself compelled to read Great Expectations and some of Dickens' later works, as these are said to be strongly influenced by Nelly, with Dickens even basing a character on her.
Ralph Fiennes not only stars as Dickens, but he also directs the film, and a beautiful film it is, with long shots of Nelly walking the beaches in contemplation and luscious theatrical set pieces of the period. Fiennes and Jones are fantastic together, but I must admit that my favorite is the spectacular Amanda Hale as Fanny, Nelly's older sister. She simply shines in everything she is in and I love watching her.
There are a handful of special features relating to the release of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival and they include a Q&A, a press conference, and some Red Carpet coverage where Fiennes and Jones discuss the film at length. I found these interesting, but they are probably more for the enthusiast than anyone else. There is also audio commentary with Fiennes and Jones, which is basically them bantering about the film and their memories during filming, and such.
Overall, the film is well acted and intriguing, but not for everyone. If you have any interest in the famous author Charles Dickens and the dark secret that his family kept hidden until every one of them had died, check out The Invisible Woman.