2006 - United Kingdom - 92 minutes
Writer - Patrick Marber from a novel by Zoe Heller
Director - Richard Eyre
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
Loneliness is certainly a human condition experienced by all through out their lives. For most of us, our periods of lonesomeness are merely uncomfortable episodes in what is the whole of our time here on earth. As a matter of fact, many of us often crave our periods of what I like to call "blessed onlyness." When loneliness becomes a psychological condition, terrible events can happen as witnessed by the events at Virginia Tech which have occurred in the week before the writing of this review.
In Notes on a Scandal, we are entertained, edified, and shocked by the actions of two women who are suffering from psychological loneliness. The topics and events shown in the film are both shocking and somewhat repugnant, but the acting and script are superb. The story is one that shows up in the headlines often. Sheba Hart - an attractive new teacher at a school - has a sexual relationship with a fifteen year old boy. The relationship is discovered by - Barbara Covett - a much older female teacher who has designs upon Sheba. Barbara uses this knowledge in order to conduct a psychological attack upon both Sheba and her family.
Sheba - brilliantly played by Cate Blanchett - is married to a much older man played by Bill Nighy. (Anytime you see that Nighy is in a film, you can bet that it will be damn good!) She has spent most of her young life being a dutiful wife and mother but has decided to spread her wings and try teaching art at a local school. She suffers all of the problems of an inexperienced teacher and has become frustrated in her efforts. One of Sheba's students - deftly played by Andrew Simpson - has become enamored of his teacher and goes out of his way to seduce her. Please note that I state that he seduces her. Yes, I know he's only fifteen, and their sexual affair is - in the final say - her crime, but I've been a fifteen year old boy, and I know they are not so "innocent" as depicted in the lurid headlines.
Even though she commits an act that is - rightly so - frowned upon by society, you can't help feeling sorry for Sheba. She is surrounded by family and friends but is oh, so lonely.
Judi Dench is Barbara, and she gives us one of the most delightfully evil characters to come along in a while. Barbara has obsession down to a science, and that obsession is narrated throughout the film by the notes that Barbara makes in her journals. Dench's voice with the perfect combination of evil and disdain entertains us beyond compare. Barbara's loneliness manifests itself in calculated acts of pure guile and malevolence that lead not only to Sheba's destruction but to her own. Well, sort of her own destruction for - as we all know - evil has a way of always escaping in the end.
Notes on a Scandal is a worthwhile hour and a half of superior acting and engrossing characters. It's a great film.
April 23, 2007