Weighing in across the generations: Our respect for Oscar-winning screenwriter & beloved actress Emma Thompson is so great that we have written two review of her new film Effie Gray. Spoiler Alert: WE BOTH LOVE IT!
Click HERE for Jan’s review (with a “Real-to-Reel” bonus section). Brigid’s review is below.
Review of Effie Gray by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Writer Emma Thompson sets her drama in Victorian-era London, telling the story of Euphemia “Effie” Gray, a young woman trapped in a passionless marriage. The endearing protagonist is brought to life by the supremely talented Dakota Fanning, making quiet Effie speak volumes through her subtle body language and dark, sad eyes. (BKP: 4/5)
Director Richard Laxton opens the film in Scotland, with wide-eyed “Effie” (Fanning) excited for her impending marriage to art critic “John Ruskin” (Greg Wise), an older man she has known since childhood. Effie dreams of soirées, ballrooms and her happily ever after. But when 19-year-old Effie weds Ruskin, the two leave for London and live with his oppressive, dreadful parents. Sadly, Effie’s fairytale ending never materializes.
On their wedding night, stuffy Ruskin rejects Effie and refuses to consummate the marriage or even intimately touch her (that night, the next night, and even five years after that). But instead of focusing on Ruskin’s intimacy issues and his abnormal relationship with his wicked mother, Thompson focuses the spotlight on Effie and her tumultuous, lonely journey of feeling unwanted and unloved.
The engrossing story takes you along on young Effie’s journey as she endures a life she never prepared for, nor ever imagined. With bleak tones and dark settings, the audience innately feels her internal struggle. The only sigh of relief comes in the form of Emma Thompson, casting herself in the supporting role of art patron “Elizabeth Eastlake.” Although Fanning takes center stage, Thompson’s character provides the heart and soul of the film. Lady Eastlake is the light and relief that Effie Gray so badly needs to keep the story from delving into a deep, dark abyss.
Shot on location, cinematographer Andrew Dunn perfectly captures Effie’s world. The details in sets and costume design, along with Fanning’s convincing performance, bring you into her harsh universe. Although the story is set centuries ago, the feelings of these characters are timeless. If the audience does not quite relate to Effie, they can most certainly relate to Lady Eastlake and her yearning to help someone with seemingly no way out. Along with age-old themes, Thompson takes 21st century, feminist ideas and plants them in her believable, multi-layered characters.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (4/15/15)
Top Photo: Dakota Fanning as “Effie Gray.”
Bottom Photo: Writer Emma Thompson as “Lady Eastlake” with Dakota Fanning as “Effie Gray.”
Photo Credits: David Levinthal © 2015 (Adopt Films)
Q: Does Effie Gray pass the Bechdel Test?
One of the most gratifying relationships comes in the form Effie confiding in Lady Eastlake about her marriage.
Although it is technically about Effie’s relationship with her husband, it is more so about the dilemma and less about John Ruskin.