Notes On A Scandal (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/01/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Superbly directed, utterly compelling drama with a strong script and deservedly Oscar-nominated performances from both Dench and Blanchett.

What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Zoe Heller, Notes On A Scandal stars Judi Dench as embittered, journal-writing schoolteacher Barbara Covett. When new teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins the school, Barbara is initially scornful of her until Sheba invites her into her home and introduces her to her family (husband Bill Nighy and kids Juno Temple and Max Lewis).

As Barbara becomes more and more obsessed with Sheba, she discovers her ill-advised affair with a testosterone-fuelled 15-year-old student (Andrew Simpson). However, instead of blackmailing Sheba, she uses the information to become her confidante, leaving Sheba unaware of just how much power Barbara has over her.

The Good
Richard Eyre's direction is excellent, maintaining a gripping, tightly-focused pace throughout and ensuring that there's not a single wasted moment in the entire 90 minute running time. He's aided considerably by Philip Glass, whose urgent, driving score powers the film along and heightens the increasingly intense atmosphere.

In addition, Patrick Marber's script delights in the language and delivers some terrific lines that'll have you squirming and emitting bursts of shocked laughter in equal measure.

The Great
Judi Dench is both utterly compelling and thoroughly believable as Barbara – it's a genuinely horrifying performance because it's so recognisably real. Thankfully, the script never tries to redeem her or make her sympathetic which gives the film an added power and results in a deeply chilling final scene.

There's also strong support from a deservedly Oscar-nominated Blanchett, an under-playing Bill Nighy (whose performance is all the better for it) and an impressive, confident debut by Andrew Simpson but you're never in any doubt whose film this is.

Worth seeing?
This is a thoroughly compelling, tightly wound and superbly directed thriller with a gripping performance by Judi Dench that would surely net her the Oscar in a Mirren-free year. Highly recommended.

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Notes On A Scandal (15)
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Content updated: 14/12/2017 02:08

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