The Invisible Woman

Out Now On-Demand

Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus) makes his second directorial effort with this adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s award-winning biographical novel on Nelly Ternan, the secret lover of Charles Dickens. Fiennes stars as the infatuated Dickens alongside Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) as Ternan and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) as Nelly’s mother. 

Nelly, a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her memories take us back in time to follow the story of her relationship with Dickens, with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. Dickens - famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success - falls for Nelly, who comes from a family of actors. The theatre is a vital arena for Dickens, a man more emotionally coherent on the page or on stage, than in life. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens' passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of "invisibility".

Tomalin's book is adapted for the screen by Abi Morgan, screenwriter of The Iron Lady and Shame.


Directed by

Written by

Biography, Drama, True Story & Biography, Romance, Historical


Rating: M Sex scenes


Official Site

Ralph Fiennes follows up his powerful directorial debut Coriolanus with this beautifully-crafted tale, in which he stars as married author Charles Dickens, depicting his secret love affair with Nelly Ternan. As played by Felicity Jones, Ternan is more than just a would-be actress bouncing off Dickens’ celebrity bandwagon and into his bed. Rather she is portrayed as a real person, tormented by memories of her illicit affair.

Tom Hollander provides moments of light relief as Dickens’ BFF, Wilkie Collins, a modern thinker seeking social freedom, whilst failing to see that women in Nineteenth Century English society are far from free. Where the film succeeds is in portraying not just Dickens’ lover as an invisible woman, but also his long-suffering wife, Catherine (Joanna Scanlan) - cruelly cast aside, as the father of her children falls beard over breeches for a younger flame. Completing the trio of powerful female performances is Kristin Scott Thomas as Nelly’s mother, walking a thin line between protecting her youngest daughter’s reputation and encouraging her illicit liaison.

Abi Morgan’s subtle screenplay, coupled with Fiennes assured, yet restrained, direction, captures the nuanced drama and humanity of Claire Tomalin’s book on which it is based. Some may find the graceful pace a slow plod and the repressed passion a turn off, but if, like this reviewer, you revelled in the stifled sensuality of Eighties Brit-period dramas The Remains of the Day or The French Lieutenant's Woman, you will likely relish the opportunity to dive into the sublime tortured romantic delights on offer.

Variety (USA)


Tastefully mounted and brilliantly acted.

Hollywood Reporter


A career high point for Ralph Fiennes as both an actor and director.

Time Out London


Only partly a romance; it’s the tragedy of Nelly’s life that makes itself more powerfully heard.

Empire (UK)


One for lovers of ravishing craft, although the elusive emotional engagement is frustrating.

Guardian (UK)


A mature movie, prudent in the best possible sense.

Dissolve (USA)


Sometimes content to be a little too subtle.

Sydney Morning Herald


A competently told tale, but there are few high points.

At The Movies (Australia)


A muted, quietly sensual adaptation... a fascinating insight into the cult of celebrity in the 19th Century.



Wonderful film on love

This movie was one my Grandma and I could enjoy together at both ends of the age spectrum and we could share what we liked. We both cried and loved the lead actresses performance, she was so amazing. If you like to think about love and what does it mean and the choices you make then this film will have you thinking for a day or two.

Arthouse historical drama

Slowish biographical romantic drama about Charles Dickens, the writer of so many classics you have to read at school to show some literary competance.