A woman hired as a governess is taught the pioneering art of photography by the man she works for while she teaches him about passion.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 16-FEB-1999
Media Type: DVD
George K. from COLCHESTER, CT Reviewed on 7/28/2013...
Minnie Driver and Tom Wilkinson are just marvelous in this movie. Not an action film but filled with emotion and character. Most worth seeing.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Elizabeth B. (bethieof96) from NINETY SIX, SC Reviewed on 6/17/2013...
A pretty good movie. Minnie Driver plays an awesome part. She is so easy to play different roles. Really a good actress
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Sandra W. from HAGERSTOWN, MD Reviewed on 12/21/2009...
Minnie Driver gives a very good performance in this dark story of a young Jewish woman who goes to be a governess for a Gentile family far from her home and her own family. I enjoyed her character's development and the relationship between her and that of actor Tom Wilkinson. The relationships in the family that takes her on as governess are strained, to say the least, with a husband who has a dream and a disinterested and hostile wife. I liked this movie very much.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Cary L. (cjlewis143) from ROLLA, MO Reviewed on 3/22/2009...
I was very, very surprised and thoroughly enjoyed this show. You will not be disappointed.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Hilda S. from YORKTOWN, VA Reviewed on 5/4/2008...
This was a really good movie set in the era it was written for. Minnie Driver portrays a Jewess who goes to work as a governess in the home of a wealthy family. She soon becomes involved with the head of the house-hold and has an intimate affair with him. When he tries to end it she then tries to make him jealous by accepting the advances of his son. When she realizes that this would only make matters worse she finally leaves the home but not before letting his wife know what has transpired.
3 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Tarra S. (thesaintmom) from PIEDMONT, SC Reviewed on 3/13/2008...
WOW, I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED WITH THIS MOVIE. YOU NEVER KNEW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Beautifully shot, the story of a pre-Victorian feminist
Larry Mark | nyc | 04/11/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set in 1840, England, between the times of King George and Queen Victoria, this is the story of a Jewish woman, Rosina Da Silva (Minnie Driver), who after the death of her beloved father, is asked to marry quickly and marry "well" so that the debt-ridden family can maintain its standards of living. Rosina is headstrong, and rejects a marriage proposal from an older, boring man. She would rather be an actress. She takes a job as a nanny for the Cavendish family on the uninviting, desolate, Isle of Skye. She changes her name to Mary BlackChurch to mask her Jewish identity, and is accepted as one of the family. Like Queen Esther of the Purim holiday, she masks her identity and takes up residence in a palace-like household. And then Mr. Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson), an inventor who is focusing his scientific work on photography, takes an interest in Mary/Rosina, as does the Cavendish's teenage son, Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Beautifully shot, like the photos Cavendish is trying to develop and stabilize. A tad cliché with the pre-Victorian romantic lines. Contains nudity. First 10 minutes contain shots of "recreated" London (actually Venetian style) synagogue and "Sephardic" Jewish life. By the way, the writer / director Goldbach is the progeny of an Italian-Jewish father and Scottish mother. Contains music by the late Israeli singer, Ofra Haza, and Edward Shearmur."
Better the second time around... a family in need of Freud
Karusichan | Lansing, MI. USA. | 09/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am a period movie fan. I first saw this film when it was new in the rental stores. At the time I thought it was interesting, but it did not rate as high as other films I was into. Recently I decided to watch it again while I was fiending for a movie with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in it and I must say it was worth a second viewing.
Minnie Driver plays Rosina, a young Jewish woman who must find employment to help support her family after the murder of her father. She gets hired at a home in Scotland by cold woman with two children and a husband who spends the bulk of his time pursuing new innovations in the Photographic field. Quickly she is swept up in the morose nature of this family, but she finds joy in the studio with the lord of the manor and an unexpected love affair as well.
The casting of this movie was well done. Driver's performance as the ingenue suits her well and she captivates as the driving force behind the plot. Tom Wilkinson, who plays her love interest Charles Cavendish, is also well matched as the isolated naturalist who cannot bring himself to face the timultuous emotions the young Rosina inspires in him. As for the reason I chose to rewatch the film, Meyers is as engaging as always as the young college man who fixates his desire on Rosina nearly from the moment he meets her. The cinematography is also stunning, the gray and black tones of color set the mood of the film and the location is a fitting backdrop for this brooding story, whether or not it is actually Scotland I am not sure, but it comes off well none the less. And the scenes where Cavendish is shooting pictures of Rosina are simply wonderful.
My only real complaint about the film was that it lacked a bit of subtance when it came to the family. I would have liked to have more explanation about why the family was so dysfunctional. The mother spends all of her time obsessing about London society, though she has never been there before. Charles Cavendish obsesses over his work and not much else, although he manages his to air bigotry and male chauvinism often enough. The daughter, Clementina, only cares about drawing attention to herself and does so by showing off her dead animals and telling her disturbing dreams to anyone who might listen, and Henry Cavendish spends most of his time chasing after Rosina and engaging in generally creepy behavior because he was drawn to her differences and because he liked to shock his family, as demonstrated by his expulsion from school due to being found in an opium den. What draws a family to act like this? I don't know, because it was never hashed out anywhere in the film, and I like to think that Scotland is probably not as dreary as this film portrays it, certainly not dreary enough to lead people to behave like this.
Overall, not a bad film though. I enjoyed it so much more the second time through. Definitely worthwhile for any fan of period dramas, Minnie Driver, or Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (who shines in every scene he is in.) If you like dark melodrama or gothic films this is a must see."
Ahh...romance in Scotland....with Jonathan
Valerie Miller | Thousand Oaks, California United States | 07/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My interest in The Governess was piqued when I heard that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (as Henry Cavendish) appears in a decidedly supporting - but delicious role. Having seen some of his previous films (Velvet Goldmine and Ride with the Devil) I was very pleased to see that this film was a departure for him as he is usually cast as a theatrically effeminate villian-type. Here, he plays the young love-lorn son of the vindictive lord of the Manor played by Tom Wilkinson. He hopelessly pines for Rosina (Minnie Driver) and is crushed at the end when his affections are denied. I was glad to see his normally over-the-top acting style was gracefully curtailed yet intense at the same time. It's long and tedious at times (as most British films tend to crawl by for American audiences), but at the end, it seems like you have just had the satisfaction of reading a poignant bestselling novel. The movie itself has the complex and metaphoric plot of a good novel, but keeps to a central character without dallying in unrelated side-plots. I like this movie for grey, rainy afternoons on the couch with a friend who is a novelist. Or not. Forget that, watch it whenver you like. It's good anytime. Watch it for culture and perspective."
Sexually charged film of obsession and betrayal
Valerie Miller | 08/10/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to disagree with several viewers on the notion that this film lacked certain substance. Minnie Driver delivers a sexually ignited and thoughtful performance as Rosalina, "Mary", a 19th century woman forced to hide her true identity in Protestant and Conservative upper-class Scotland. She does this in order to support her destitute family in London after the murder of her father. She takes a governess position to the highly respected, upper-class Cavendish family. This family has a scientest patriarch consumed with his research in capturing photographic images on paper. He ignores his wife and children in order to conduct his work. He allows Mary to be his research assistant when he sees how intelligent and curious her mind is. I found it interesting that he refused to capture any images that represent human or living forms in his research. I felt that this reflected his inability to connect himself to other humans, including his bored and highly-proper wife. Mary comes into the picture and provides a burst of humanity and warmth in the stuffy and pretentious atmosphere. This warmth and presence that Minnie delivers so well on the screen, is irresistable to Mr. Cavendish, as well as his children. She brings this serious man out of his box and they begin a torrid affair. His wife is oblivious. She is in her own world most of the time.When Mr. Cavendish cannot accept that he has such intense feelings for Mary, he pushes her away. The ending, which I won't give away, was moving and quite satisfying. I thought the film was beautifully done, in particular the scenes where Mary is posing for the camera. Minnie Driver looks like she stepped out of a painting from antiquity. Even though Tom Wilkinson (Mr. Cavendish) is not your stereotypical Hollywood "hunk", he provides the sexual chemistry of a man obsessed. This makes his performance not only challenging, but rewarding. Mary loves him on many levels, not just physical ones, but they connect in their minds as well as their hearts."
The fixation of memory and the essence of people
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 08/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie, set in the late 1830's or early 1840's, combines the divide between Jews and Gentiles, the struggles women had to have in a patriarchal society, and the search for a permament fixative agent in photography.
Rosina is a young Jewish women whose father unexpectedly dies. This is disaster for women, because their career options were limited to three: marriage, prostitution, or domestic employment. Rosina though is quite plucky, and after a meeting with an elderly fishmonger, says she'd rather be a prostitute. Fortunately, she finds a situation in the paper, much to the distress of her mother, who wants her to carry on the tradition and be married to a Jew. However, she has to change her name to something more English, change into more acceptable clothing, and for her new adventure, to learn math and the New Testament.
Undaunted, Rosina, going by the alias Mary Blackchurch, goes to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and the Cavendishes to become a governess for their daughter Clementina. The mother is a bit of an insipid and weak-willed woman mostly in bed, whom Rosina/Mary describes as "speak[ing] like she has a lemon up her posterior." The daughter is a little horror at first, but they become friends. As for Charles Cavendish, he's busy working on research trying to find that elusive fixative process in photography. Rosina has had lot of learning from her family, and interested, becomes his assistant. He has some sample photos, but they quickly dissolve after exposure to sunlight. However, due to a serendipitous accident, Rosina discovers it, much to their delight. His disinterest in capturing human faces changes when Rosina becomes his subject, and before long, that blossoms into an affair. Rosina herself finds herself in a privileged position, as both she and Cavendish will become famous after reporting their findings to the Royal Society. This will thrust her above the ordinary woman, especially considering she's Jewish. She becomes more confident, more so than any woman. In short, she considers herself Cavendish's equal, and it's her own turn behind the lens that leads to disaster.
The concept of photography was quite revolutionary when formulated by Niepce and his partner Daguerre. As Rosina observes, photography captures the essence of people. The fixative agent serves to fix the memory of people. Nowadays, we take photography for granted, but think of what it meant back then, proof that someone existed, a visual historical document, that also influenced the schools of art. And only a privileged few could master the technique. And think what it meant for photographers like Matthew Brady in the Civil War or Jacob Riis in the 1890's.
The scene of Cavendish taking his pictures of Mary is revealing, as we see his single eye through the peephole of the camera, which then closes, after which the picture is taken. While it represents photographer and subject, it also represents the barrier between men and women as well as English and Jew. On one side of the lens, there are the favoured, men and English, who can see everything. All Jews and women can see is the eye of the elite looking at them, signifying their powerlessness. The fact that Mary gets that opportunity shows how lucky and plucky she is with the roles reversed.
As Rosina/Mary, Minnie Driver puts a lot into a very complex character. Initially, the viewer learns how Rosina wants to be on stage. The rich learning from her family lends to her scientific and rational capacity, but her romantic and idealistic side comes into play once she succeeds and feels she could be anything she wanted. In contrast, Tom Wilkinson's Cavendish is someone unable to cope with his mind out of control, in the realms of passion, more comfortable with passionless and dry science, objects as opposed to people. And it's a discomfort that turns to anger. Arlene Cockburn, who plays Lily the maid, also appeared in The Winter Guest as the tomboyish Nita.
An interesting movie that may go a bit long, but boosted by Minnie Driver, who's at her most sensuous here."