Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Running Time: 111 minutes
Synopsis: It is 1885 and Nelly Wharton Robinson, a woman in her late 30s, is living with her husband, George Wharton Robinson, and their sixyear old son Geoffrey in Margate. They enjoy a happy and bustling life running a school for boys of which George is the headmaster. Nelly, who loves the theatre, stages elaborate plays with the schoolchildren, including one called No Thoroughfare: A Drama in Five Acts, written by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Rather incongruously, her production stars Geoffrey as a lion. But Nelly is hiding a secret. She takes long walks on the beach, lost in her thoughts, oblivious to the melancholy of an English coastal resort in winter. On her return her distracted air catches the attention of Reverend William Benham at the play's dress rehearsal. When he points out there is no lion in the play he is intrigued by her insistence the two playwrights would not have minded her taking such dramatic license.
During the rehearsal, Nelly's thoughts drift to another time. It is 1865 and Nelly, then in her mid-20s, is on a train. Just as quickly, it is 1857 and the 18 year-old Nelly is attending rehearsals with her mother, Catherine Ternan, and older sisters Fanny and Maria, in Manchester at the Free Trade Hall. They have been hired to appear in The Frozen Deep, written by Wilkie Collins, and directed by and starring the famous Charles Dickens. The Ternan women are all renowned actresses, although Nelly, the youngest, shyest and prettiest, does not possess the acting talents of her mother and sisters.
Every aspect of the cheerful, noisy rehearsal is overseen with great skill by Dickens, revealed to the Ternan women as a wonderfully charismatic man in his mid 40s. They meet his good friend Wilkie as well as his family and children, including his wife Catherine Dickens. She sits apart from all the activity, looking tired and disinterested.
After a successful performance, Dickens hosts an exuberant celebration. The Ternan family are charmed by the singing and dancing long after his wife and many of the company have retired to bed. Nelly and Dickens share a moment watching the dawn creep in.
Back in 1885 and Nelly is in the schoolhouse library with Benham. She owns several signed copies of Dickens novels, a writer her husband believes Nelly knew as a child. But Benham's curiosity is piqued again as he glimpses a tiny lock of baby hair within the pages of an original version of The Frozen Deep. It is hastily hidden by Nelly.
In bed later that night, after making love to her husband, Nelly's mind wanders again to 1857. She is attending a reading of David Copperfield by Dickens with her family. They are flattered by the attention he pays them, particularly Nelly, who admits to him she has read the novel twice.
As the affection between the Ternans and Dickens grows, so Dickens becomes increasingly distant from his wife. The Ternans attend Doncaster Races with Dickens and Wilkie. When Dickens is mobbed by adoring race-goers, they recognise the true extent of his celebrity.
Unpacking at their modest London home, Mrs Ternan discovers Nelly's signed copy of David Copperfield and realises the feelings developing between Nelly and Dickens. When Dickens later visits Park Cottage, Mrs Ternan tells him she is conflicted. She is fearful her daughter will not be able to earn a living as an actress but neither does she want Nelly to risk her reputation as the mistress of a wealthy married man.
Back in 1885, Benham has joined Nelly on the beach. She admits she was 18 when she first met Dickens and that she was an also an actress. Benham realises what she is telling him, and that it is something she has kept from her husband, or so she believes.
Expressing remorse to Benham for what happened, Nelly's thoughts go to her birthday party in 1858. Now living in a handsome Georgian house provided by Dickens, the Ternans enjoy a pleasant afternoon. But it is disturbed when Catherine Dickens arrives with a bracelet for Nelly. It is a gift to Nelly from Dickens, wrongly delivered to her. Nelly is shocked by his cruelty towards his wife and is cold towards Dickens when he arrives later with Wilkie.
In an attempt to cheer her up they take Nelly to the home of Caroline Graves, Wilkie's widowed mistress. But Nelly is unamused by their living arrangements. The evening ends with both Nelly and Dickens consumed by a tumult of conflicting emotions and a new understanding of who the other is. Dickens' marriage to a devastated Catherine publically unravels with a letter announcing their separation he sends to The Times. It has a tremendous impact on both his family and the Ternans. Dickens tries to explain to Nelly why he did what he did and compares himself to the flawed, unheroic Pip of Great Expectations, the novel he is working on. Nelly suggests they go away together.
Following an idyllic time together in France, Nelly falls pregnant. But the pregnancy ends tragically in a stillborn baby boy and Nelly is grief-stricken.
They leave France and once back in England board a train to London. Dickens is busy working on Our Mutual Friend as Nelly watches the Kent countryside speeding past. Suddenly the train violently buckles and the world is upturned. Nelly awakes on a grassy verge, slightly injured. A distraught, unharmed Dickens tends to her before she sends him away to help the injured and to keep his travelling companion a secret.
Twenty years later in 1885, preparations for the school performance are in full swing. But Nelly is not there. Instead, she is talking with Benham in a graveyard, where he reveals he knows her real name, Ellen Ternan. With relief Nelly tells him about her life with Dickens, as if trying to make sense of it herself.
Her state of mind much improved, Nelly returns to the schoolhouse, slipping in beside her seemingly unsuspecting husband. Broaching the subject of Benham and Dickens, they are interrupted by a roar of a lion as Geoffrey rushes up to them and is tenderly embraced. Holding hands, his parents watch Geoffrey's joyful performance which is greeted with ecstatic applause.
The Invisible Woman
Release Date: April 17th, 2014
Question: How well did you know Charles Dickens before making the film?
Kristin Scott Thomas: I knew as much as anyone else in that if you live in Britain you can't help but read some of his novels and, appreciate them. There's always good old television drama to count on. The stories are great and the characters are always really interesting. They remain fascinating and outrageous and moving.
Question: Dickens was a very theatrical character in every sense of the word. Do you think he speaks to actors particularly in how he lived his life and how he wrote his stories?
Kristin Scott Thomas: You do feel that, as an actor does, he has a great understanding of human spirit and soul. That's probably why he appeals to us.
Question: Did you know the Dickens as revealed in The Invisibel Woman?
Kristin Scott Thomas: No I knew he had a bit of a murky relationship with his wife, but I didn't quite understand how dark it was. I find it very shocking what he does. I find it quite disturbing. And this sort of impossible love affair he has with Nelly Ternan, which drives her to become invisible, is kind of odd.
Question: Perhaps not so odd for the time or did something particularly strike you?
Kristin Scott Thomas: Well she was 18! And he was 40-something with 10 children, and a wife. He sort of possessed the lives of the Ternans and took over by becoming a kind of benefactor. The situation in which the Ternan family find themselves was morally very delicate. Mrs Ternan was a single mother with three daughters, not even a son who can go out and earn a living, doing this rather precarious career of being an actress which was very closely associated with prostitution at the time. They had really tough lives these people. They would spend hours walking home after the theatre at night. I was talking with Felicity about what a pity it is we never see, Mrs Ternan and her daughter trudging home at 11pm in the rain. And home was a tiny, tiny little damp cold cottage. There's nothing glamorous about it whatsoever. There's one passage in Claire Tomalin's book that talks about one of the daughters who wept with humiliation because she had to wear tights on stage, which for us is like having to wear a bikini on stage or something. The context in which Dickens finds this family is very uncomfortable. I think his obsession with the whole family is only because that allowed him to get to Nelly. I don't think it was particularly altruistic.
Maybe I'm wrong...
This is why it's really delicate playing characters who really existed, because you don't want to make-up any old story. But there's so little known about these people and they were actors that I feel quite relaxed about taking liberties because their lives were all invented anyway.
Question: How was working with Ralph Fiennes, a man you know very well?
Kristin Scott Thomas: This is the third time we've worked together. We met on The English Patient, we were both actors, and then we made another film together as actors, in Martha Fiennes' picture Chromophobia, and then we did this. I saw Coriolanus and I was so impressed by his directing, by the way he made that film, I thought I want to be in a film directed by him. Ralph is someone I have a very good shorthand with so it moves along really quickly. I enjoy being directed by him as much as I enjoy acting with him. Which is rare actually because I've made quite a lot of films with actor directors and sometimes it's very, very frustrating because the director is good but the actor has problems, or the actor's great and the director….But this time it's very, very even. I'm in awe of what he's doing because he's so clever at keeping everything ticking over. At the same time he manages to remain one of the team as far as the actors are concerned. You sometimes forget he's the director, because he's so much one of the troupe. And because this film happens so much in the theatrical world and the world of performers, and writers and actresses, that atmosphere is important to keep alive on the set. I think we manage it pretty well.
Question: On set, it's odd to see Dickens directing, to see Ralph behind the camera and moving his beard out of the way.
Kristin Scott Thomas: He looks extraordinarily like him. The transformation is pretty astonishing. He really inhabits it, it's not just a wig stuck on him. He's very, very particular about it and a bit obsessional about it. He's right in there every morning, questioning, questioning, questioning, questioning, whether it's right. We all sit patiently back and wait for them to get the wig on, not worrying.
Question: Has it been fun, being the mother of that troupe of girls?
Kristin Scott Thomas: Yes, it's great fun, actually! They're very different, the three actresses who play my daughters, Felicity, Perdita Weeks and Amanda Hale. It's great working with young actresses, it's fun.
Question: How did you get involved with the project?
Abi Morgan: It started with Claire Tomalin interviewing writers. I knew Claire's work and I'd admired her book. As well as being a social historian, Claire is ultimately a writer and she knows a good narrative. I think it was a very important requisite she approved the writer. So I met Claire first and as much as I loved her book, I just adored her mind and you could see there was a sort of twinkling as soon as you meet her.
Claire is a hugely generous writer and has been brilliant because her real gift was giving us the novel. I think of it as a novel although it is, in a way a, a social history and a biopic.
She has a huge respect not only for my role as an adaptor and screenwriter and also for Ralph's role. She's also very shrewd and has the eye of an editor. That was incredibly useful from the point of view of her reading the drafts along the way. She made some very good points which we really took on board. From my point of view it's been a lovely collaboration.
So there was definitely a real passion for the book but second to that, I'm the daughter of an actress. I could really identify with Nelly and I could really identify with the world she was brought up in. My father was an actor and then a director and my sister became an actress.
Question: And was Ralph involved at this stage?
Abi Morgan: Very much so. In the early days it was just myself and BBC Films and Headline Films working with Claire on the script. We had a couple of good dinners with her when we discussed how she felt about the direction of the script. But when Ralph came on board it took it up another level. I had devised a very different present-day narrative but when Ralph came on board we interrogated Claire's book again. We went back to the notion of Benham who is a very key character in the film and also a key character in the book because he is the Reverend to whom Nelly confesses and tells her story. When Ralph came in to re-invigorate the screenplay - that became the starting point.
The film cuts between the present day, our present day of 1885, back to 1857 when Nelly first met Charles and the 13 years she spent with him up until his death. We chose to focus on the complexities of that love affair, of what it means to have a relationship with a hugely moral, hugely public figure and the passion and the problematic nature of that love affair.
Question: What became the bedrocks of the story for you?
Abi Morgan: Looking at Nelly is really a way to look at Charles. So I'm talking about Charles Dickens's life as much as I'm talking about Nelly. It's a process of investigation and interrogation of the book to really decide which story we were going to tell. What was key to me was this notion they had a child together - which I think Claire can substantiate with various tiny bits of evidence - but also is a kind of conjecture as well. So the pivotal points for me were building to this child and the effect it has on them as a couple but also the train crash as a defining moment where Nelly decides and recognises she's married to as public figure. The themes of public and private are constantly wrangled within the context of the book and they became very pivotal to our screenplay.
Question: The Invisible Woman makes clear Charles Dickens is more than just a public figure. It's hard for us now to think of a writer as this lionised figure.
Abi Morgan: Our notion of celebrity is obviously very vivid and turbulent now but then, what was interesting was the same things that affect superstars now were really affecting him. He had a public identity, he had an odd marriage to Catherine Dickens, they had several children, he had a profile and he was also a very, strong social commenter and social crusader of the time. For him to have this very intense love affair and to be able to conceal it was probably a mark of the time because there were obviously whisperings of this love affair but it wasn't splashed across the front pages in the same way it would be in the 21st century.
It was very interesting to go back and try and hone in on the intensity and what if must have felt like to be a public figure then and also to be able to have a private love affair. I think most celebrities now just couldn't get away with it in the same way.
Question: What spoke to Dickens about Nelly? His marriage with Catherine was already in great trouble.
Abi Morgan: I think he deified her in a way. Claire's book talks about the detail in which he recorded his memories of her, he talks about the lilac bonnet and the lilac gloves. But also the only bits of info you can find on her are very shrouded. So, there was a game Dickens used to play, there was a close circle of friends. We hone in on Wilkie but obviously there was John Forster who was a very close friend of his to who he actually confessed more.
Claire's brilliance is she really fills in the gaps around Dickens, she really hones in on the detail of what his friends said and what he was doing at the time and where his family were at the time. From a screenwriter's point of view, she gives you a tremendous amount of space to recreate what probably happened because she gives you so much detail. Although the actual events and the actual point of view you have to create yourself because obviously Claire wasn't there. Also Dickens covered up a lot of detail about their first meeting and their subsequent love affair.
Question: Hence of course the title of her book and the film. The astonishing thing for anybody who looks briefly at Charles Dickens' life is how he found the time. The man was a dynamo!
Abi Morgan: He really was. He talks about being up at seven and writing away. It's very interesting being a writer and writing about a writer. I really identified with Dickens and I identified with this kind of night life he had. If you're a writer you're on your own all day and so the evening becomes very important to punctuate your day. Often it's the time when you live your life. Dickens would get up very early and he'd write all day but he also had a very active theatre- going life and he had a very strong public identity. He did readings, he hosted important public events. But he also has his down-time and a lot of writing is reflective. A lot of writing is going out and seizing life and observing life. He was constantly doing that and so he needed to create a lot of entertainment around him. He was a director, an actor, a raconteur; he was obviously a novelist, a social diarist. He really grasped life. Yet he still managed to get up in the morning and start writing again.
Question: Although sadly he burnt himself out...
Abi Morgan: He died in his 50s which was very young but he suffered from gout and a number of illnesses that probably weren't diagnosed. But also writing is an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle. You sit all day, you contemplate, you eat too much, you often drink too much and you don't have to walk anywhere. It's quite sedentary. Although the difference was that they didn't have the constant use of taxis and the trains that they have now, but he was known to walk from London. It's very interesting for me because I drive my children to school in Highgate in the morning and I pass a blue plaque, and then I drive through Baker Street and around that area and Brewer Street and there are plaques everywhere to Dickens. He left his mark all around London and he walked it. And so I think this was the counterpoint to his very sedentary life but unfortunately he didn't have 21st century modern medicine so he obviously died too young.
Question: He relished the public eye, didn't he? There was a point in his life when he could have become an actor.
Abi Morgan: He was a playwright, he co wrote with Wilkie Collins but also there is a monastic quality to being a writer and so the counterpoint to that, the sort of joy, the fun, the play of being a director was a great diversion for him. He really loved it and he loved the company of actors. I identified with that because I grew up among actors and I enjoy the company of actors. Dickens was unusual as a writer in that he was a real extrovert. But what runs parallel with that was a hugely private side he did keep very concealed, not only from the world but from those closest to him and certainly from Catherine.
Question: Dickens was very attracted to the Ternan family. Why do you believe he took them under his wing?
Abi Morgan: What has been very clever is the way Ralph has portrayed the family and the way he shows Dickens as someone who was clearly drawn to Nelly but I think did love her whole family. What's interesting is for a man who had 10 children of his own, and had a family of his own he was drawn to other people's families.
Question: He was constantly disappointed by his own...
Abi Morgan: He was in turmoil. He was his own harshest critic. He was very brutal to his children, he loved his daughters, and he was very close to Katey and Mamie. He was much harder on his sons and so I don't think it's a surprise he was drawn to a room full of women, he loved the company of women. He certainly had a lot of male friends but he did enjoy the company of women. Women flattered him and listened to his stories. It's always easier to be more vivid and more interesting to other people because your family know you so well and they've heard your stories.
And yes, Nelly was very pretty and yes she was very attentive and we've chosen to hone in on her having a level of intelligence and understanding of his work because she did read his books. We've honed in on the potential intellectual friendship they had but I also think he was drawn to the family because he helped the family a lot. He helped Fanny, he introduced her to Anthony Trollope and gave her that introduction as the governess, and he did financially help the family. I think that did go beyond just having an interest in Nelly.
Having said that, what I love about the way Ralph has directed himself and certainly the direction of that relationship, is that he hasn't shied away from a man who clearly has a very primal interest in Nelly that goes beyond family and the desire to help the family. He's managed to hold those two quite difficult arms of the man very well.
Question: What was Dickens' marriage like when he first met Nelly?
Abi Morgan: His relationship with Catherine was seen as in a difficult state which is played beautifully by Jo Scanlan. He was brutal to her, horribly so for those of us who love his work, with an astonishing thing, a very modern thing of writing to The Times. The thing I was drawn to about Dickens was how perplexing he was and how modern his behaviour was in many ways. He was a man who understood the social etiquette of the time but also constantly defied it. He took out an open letter in The Times and then the New York Times where he denied he was having an affair. He denied the whisperings and the rumours but also said he was separating from his wife.
I've seen that as a response to an impossible ask, which was that he was tied to a marriage. He was very fond of Catherine but it was dead. They had had 10 living children together and she was constantly pregnant or weaning. A child is a grenade in any marriage and to do that 10 times…You could see there was really a worn-out marriage there but it was also a marriage where they knew each other very well.
There are a series of things in Claire's book which we have chosen to dramatise which are very complex. The delivery of the bracelet which was mistakenly delivered to Catherine. There is this inference Dickens put Catherine up to hand deliver it Nelly. Then there was the brutal moment of the bricking up of the door between the dressing room and the bedroom, which is when the dressing room became Dickens bedroom which was the moment of separation. In the film we portrayed it as boards being hammered across but it was actually bricked up.
You never feel those moments are discussed. They come as moments of surprise and deep pain for Catherine. To try and portray a man who is revered but his behaviour at times shocking, was a real challenge for a writer and yet oddly I understood him. I think he showed the frustration and child-like qualities he had but also the pain he was in to do those things. Nobody's a monster. That's letting someone off the hook if you make them a monster; you're denying their culpability and what I love about Dickens is that he wrangles with his own culpability.
Question: He's a man who knows what he's doing and is tormented by it?
Abi Morgan: The theme we wrestle with is what does it mean to maintain a personal morality when the public are demanding a public morality. Nelly says -why did you do that? To be so cruel? Why did you send her to me?' and Charles says -I think I wanted to break it'. That is pure conjecture on my part but it was what I felt when reading Claire's book. I felt so strongly this was a man who was really wrestling with huge passion and how does one modify, contain and restrain oneself? I was drawn to that man's passion and I think we are all capable of terrible things and it's how we navigate our way through them. What I do love about my version of Charles and what I think is there in Claire's book, is that warts and all, this man was truthful and trying to be honest with this situation. And so the moment of delivering the separation, while he denied Nelly's existence, to protect her I think, he didn't deny there were problems in his marriage. To do that in 19th century Britain, however cruel that was, there was something very contemporary and quite brave about it. I'm quite drawn to his passions and his monstrousness.
And I think I was drawn to him as writer. I think your 40s are interesting. I'm a woman in my 40s and it's a time when you've hopefully reached a certain level in your career. If you're lucky you have family and you have a relationship so you don't have the same explosive chaos as you do in your 20s which can generate a lot of energy and interesting material. There is a compulsion to shake it up sometimes and there's a compulsion to take yourself as a person to different places because that informs your writing.
I know I'm constantly drawn to people's situations. Someone can be telling me something really appalling and I'll say -god, that's interesting' and I'll have to remind myself this is someone's life. I sort of identified that with Dickens, that there was a sort of compulsion to live one's life to still feel connected with the world. I think that's what draws creative people to catastrophe and to drama because it's also where there energy starts to burn and where they get a lot of creative material from. I feel that's something going on very strongly with Dickens.
Question: At what point did it become clear Ralph was going to play Dickens?
Abi Morgan: I absolutely love the casting process and I often write it with an actor in mind and they're often enough not the actor we go with and it often works brilliantly. What was interesting when I was writing The Invisible Woman was that there are very few brilliant male British actors in their 40s who could take a film so confidently through into their early 50s, real lead actor stars. There are a handful now of that age and Ralph is absolutely at the forefront. So when I was writing it and when Ralph came on board, it was always going to be Ralph. He probably wrestled with that for some time because it's a very difficult role being a director. I saw the complexities when I watched him on set. It's a real tribute to him as a director but also as an actor that he's been able to do that. But for me it was always going to be Ralph but it was just a process of persuading him. So when we were working on the script, I was constantly saying -and this is when you will' and he'd go -Well you don't know that'. And I'd say -Of course not' and then I'd say, -Daniel Day- Lewis would be amazing in there', which is always a good thing to say to an actor because they're a bit like -Hmm'.
For me, the more I wrote it, the more I identified it was right for Ralph. Ralph really understood what it means to be a public figure and how do you balance your public life with your private life. It's been a joy from beginning to end to work with Ralph as an actor but also as a director and the collaborator on the script because that perspective really helped when we were interrogating the material.
I was also a huge fan of Felicity and what I love about her is that she is incredibly contemporary and yet that beautiful face works in a period drama. I was really excited about the two of them together.
On the whole I get very excited about the casting process. As a screenwriter you can't ever be too precious about your material because you'll get dropped, you won't last the movie. And it's important you keep it fluid because it will kill the movie. What I often love is when the actors come on because that's when the real writing starts for me I start to write for them.
Question: With The Iron Lady and now The Invisible Woman, are you becoming the go-to person to write about hugely well-known figures?
Abi Morgan: It's not biopics per se I'm interested in, it's character. So taking Margaret Thatcher or Charles Dickens, they were wonderful characters to really grab and write about. I'd really like to write about Billy Wilder, he'd be somebody I'd really love to do a biography of. He's my favourite writer ever. I'm drawn to the man as much as the life you presume is going to be there. What is great about a biopic is you're often dealing with a huge actor. For me somehow the gravitas and weight of the actor completely melds with the creative process of writing.
Question: The big difference between the two films is that of course Meryl Streep didn't direct The Iron Lady as well. Ralph has pulled off an extraordinary tour de force of both acting and directing.
Abi Morgan: Ralph was the most tenacious director I have worked with. He was great to work with on the script because I've never met somebody who could literally swap hats. He can be co-writer, he can be director, he can be actor, he can be production designer. He doesn't jump through those roles, he flows, and it flows through him. When I was first on set, I went to his trailer and he said -Look at this' and he was just Charles. That was really exciting. But it really weighed on me what a big part he was taking on, not just as an actor but as director as well and how he was going to be able to step out of himself and direct himself. That's the hardest thing. He's had to work really hard to do that and to make his performance work. That's where his huge experience as an actor has kicked in. I think he's worked with so many great directors, he carries those voices with him. He keeps his team very tight around him because I think they're his collaborators in a true sense. I feel really fortunate to be part of that team now and to be part of that family, as he does create a family. I think that comes from being an actor and a theatre actor. You don't do theatre for the money, you do it because you love doing it and he brings that ethos to the set.
Question: There are many portraits of Dickens and with the hair and the beard Ralph really brings him alive.
Abi Morgan: I think it's the energy as well. It's a sort of mercurial energy that Ralph has that Dickens had too from everything I've read. When you meet Ralph, he's hugely charismatic and yet he has that brilliant thing when he can choose how high or how low he can put the light bulb up. It's fascinating to watch him as an actor and to watch how he can restrain himself and when he unleashes he's frightening. He can be frightening, he can be tender, he can gear change in the way Dickens does. The tenderness, the sentimentality, the viciousness, and the brutality you can see in his work, they're embodied in the man.
Ralph really got to know everyone and yet he knew how to withdraw and get the energy. It's all about the energy on set, you can feel that time is constantly ticking and everyone is conserving their energy to when they have to turn the light bulb on. Ralph is very good at giving that energy as a director but also knowing how to moderate it and keep that energy for himself for when he needs to as an actor.
Question: Has working on this film encouraged you to go back and revisit Dickens' novels?
Abi Morgan: I would love to say I've read every novel but I haven't. It has made me go back to Great Expectations, Bleak House and Oliver, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Our Mutual friend. Over time I would like to read more. I've read a lot of his letters which I've found very interesting. One of the things that has drawn me to Dickens, and he will always stay in my heart now, is that I am a Londoner. I live in London, I love London and I see echoes of his writing all the time now in present day London.
Question: It's important to emphasise you don't need to be a Dickens scholar to come to The Invisible Woman.
Abi Morgan: I hadn't read much of Dickens before I started working on the film. He's one of those novelists you think you've read and realise you've been in company where the assumption is that you have read him. It's a film about love, passion, success, loss and the impossibility of love. And I think those are eternal themes and so it's not really a film about Charles Dickens. It's a film about how do the famous have love, and find love and survive love? They survive and love in the same way we all do really. So for me that's why I love it. If you didn't know it was Charles Dickens, you'd think it was a man struggling with all the complexities of a relationship.