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Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal – Review


When new teacher Sheba (Blanchett) arrives at school, she finds it hard to control the children.
Fearsome battle-axe Barbara (Dench) takes her under her wing and makes sure the kids show her respect.
While Sheba appreciates the support and grows fond of her new friend, for Barbara, something altogether different is going on. She’s taken more than a platonic liking to Sheba and soon starts believing her delusion that Sheba feels the same way.
But Sheba is married (to Nighy) with two children, and the idea of a relationship with a middle aged woman has no interest for her at all.
However, the idea of a quick fling with a fifteen year old pupil (Simpson) does take her fancy, and when Barbara finds out, she turns this to her advantage.
As Barbara promises not to spill the beans, the bond between the two women deepens, but when Sheba makes it clear that what the two women have will never be anything more than friendship, Barbara decides to use the school grapevine to destroy Sheba’s life.


Rarely has the idea of “a woman scorned” been so well explored on the big screen, largely thanks to powerful performances from the two leads.
It makes a change to see Dench as a dowdy, lonely, cantankerous, middle-aged lesbian, but oddly, she fits the role like a glove – such is her ability as an actress, deservedly Oscar-nominated again.
She pitches the performances perfectly – turning on the charm with Sheba at the start, while she directs her venom at everyone else, and redirecting that venom towards Sheba towards the end, as her charm switches to everyone else.
Blanchett too pitches her weak and helpless character well, as she desperately tries to steer herself away from trouble, but can’t help but rush headlong into it.
Her boring marriage and difficult children make the excitement of a seductive student simply too much for her to reject.
While school scandals and women scorned aren’t in any way original themes, the lesbian twist gives the film more of an edge.
Richard Eyre’s handling of the taut plot allows events to unfold at just the right pace, although the denouement seems to spill out rather too quickly, after more than an hour of building tension.

opens nationwide 2 February 2007

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