Released theatrically in October 2014, somewhere between Gone Girl and Interstellar, Richard Laxton’s Effie Gray went a little unnoticed despite a fine casting and the great Victorian story of an unhappy marriage and a waning soul.
What’s It About? In 1841, Euphemia “Effie” Gray (Dakota Fanning) is a charming Scot and a lovely sister. She’s only 12 when she meets her future husband, famous art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise). Nine years her older, he waits until she is 18 to marry her, which she does with a lot of joy and hope. Unfortunately her marriage doesn’t meet her expectations with Ruskin caring more for his domineering mother (Julie Walters) than for his young wife. Ruskin who is cold, distant, and insensitive spends most of his time writing in solitude – and Effie slowly languishes from his lack of attention and interest. Although she can count on the support of some friends such as Lady Eastlake (Emma Thompson), her confident and mentor, Effie suffers from her husband’s indifference and the fact that he doesn’t desire her. Indeed, except during their honeymoon, he never lays eyes on her body and even then he was so disgusted by it that he vowed to never, ever touch it. And although it shames her, it is this event that gives her an escape from her morose marriage despite the strictness of Victorian morality on the matter.
Verdict: In her writing, as well as in the role she plays, screenwriter and actress Emma Thompson gives a soft and motherly tone to the movie. She cares for this young, unhappy girl and she wants the viewer to care for her too. It’s hard not to be affected by Effie Gray because Dakota Fanning, who portrays her gracefully, impresses with her portrayal of Effie’s innocence and frailty as she sinks in melancholy. Everything around her also falls into this desperate and lonely mutism. Through the contemplative camera of director Richard Laxton, light fades, nature freezes and colours wither as Effie shrivels. Despite the film’s interesting cinematography it lacks an impulse and energy. The movie ends up being so quiet and contemplative that it becomes dull and slow.
Final Words: A slow script and lack of brilliance didn’t serve well the talented cast that gathered for the occasion.
Effie Gray is out on Blu-ray and DVD today.