Film Review: Effie Gray

My friend saw this film and enjoyed it thoroughly. So, on this basis I booked tickets at my local cinema and prepared to be entertained. However, before the day arrived I heard that all the reviews had panned the film so I began to doubt the wisdom of purchasing my tickets. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I wended my way to the cinema expecting a fairly boring evening and wishing I was staying at home.

As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised. The film, although slow in pace, as most costume dramas are, dealt with the years of Effie’s marriage to John Ruskin. She was nine years younger than him and had known him since her childhood. Ruskin senior encouraged the match but did not attend the wedding as it was at the home where his father had committed suicide. The newlyweds travelled back from Scotland to Ruskin’s parent’s house in London but even at this early stage it was clear that all would not be well with the marriage.

The dreariness and loneliness of the marriage was emphasised by the very dull, sepia lighting the director, Richard Laxton, used when Effie was at Denmark Hill. Ruskin coming over as a very cold man who was used to being ruled by his parents whose ambition for him fuelled everything in their and his lives. He preferred to shut himself away with his work or to be the centre of attention giving lectures and pontificating to his protégées, such as Millais, while Effie wished to socialise and run her married home, both occupations being denied her when they were under his parent’s roof at Denmark Hill.

Emma Thompson & Dakota Fanning - Effie Gray

The love triangle between Effie, Millais and Ruskin continued to slowly build with Ruskin pushing them together, one felt in the hope that something would occur to give him the opportunity to do, what exactly, one was never sure, divorce her or imprison her further in the gilded cage of Denmark Hill until she went completely mad, who knows.

When the pace finally gathered speed the film rushed with almost indecent haste towards its conclusion and the ending was stark in the extreme. I have been to the cinema where the ending leaves people in silence for a few moments taking in the film and processing it all. This ending left the audience in silence but for the reason of “is that it”. Although on reflection that was probably the right way to end it but it needed some time for that idea to manifest itself.

The acting was, for the most part, well done. I found it difficult to watch Emma Thompson without thinking of Nanny McPhee and my husband was amazed when he found out that Julie Waters was playing Ruskin’s mother, he hadn’t recognised her at all. The cameo role by Derek Jacobi stole the show as the humour he injected was necessary to lighten the dreariness of the Ruskin household. Dakota Fanning as Effie gave a solid performance of a person descending into depression.

All in all an entertaining film which whiled away a few hours when there was nothing on the television but not one that you would wish to see again or remember for very long.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.