Notes on a Scandal (2006) Directed by Richard Eyre. With Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy.
Based on a novel by Zoe Heller and directed by Richard Eyre, Notes on a Scandal is a televisual style drama told from the perspective of Judi Dench’s Barbara, a lonely school teacher who fixes her gaze on new colleague, Sheba (Blanchett), with increasingly awkward results.
The first thing to say is that Dench and Blanchett are both tremendous. As Barbara, Dench is delightfully bitter and twisted, incorporating cunning and morally dubious throughout. It’s a scary portrayal that evokes the likes of Misery and Fatal Attraction, but without the glamour and cliché of the latter. As Sheba, Blanchett herself digs deep in a role that has her perform uncomfortable moments of intimacy, as well as high emotional outbursts.
As mentioned, the film does have a distinctly BBC miniseries, televisual flavour. The grey, cold, and very British tones perfectly frame Barbara’s anguish as she frighteningly deludes herself by way of voyeurism turning to infatuation. The screenplay is also very well adapted, giving Dench plenty of devilry to play upon.
Notes on a Scandal might not be the most striking British cinematic offering, but it’s held aloft by two fine opposing turns from Dench and Blanchett. Just don’t let your bunny out of sight. 4/5