Courting is essentially a thing of the past in today’s society. In the Victorian age, it was the norm. Women joined the family of their husband and were better seen and not heard. Effie Gray was a real life young women wed to infamous art critic, John Ruskin. With dreams of entering a love filled marriage, Effie was thrown into high society under an overbearing mother-in-law and a frigid husband. Parties and showing social grace in a world where she was an object for show became increasingly more smothering and confusing. Ruskin was a progressive and outspoken art critic, which is what attracted Effie as a child. Although once married, she was discouraged from speaking her views, sexually rejected, and labeled a harlot by the one person she sought affection from. This virgin bride suffered years of emotional abuse until encountering a helpful soul and patron of the arts, Lady Eastlake. Without giving too much away, this film actually becomes a wonderful example of the power of a determined woman. In an age where divorce was simply not an option, Effie Gray finds a loophole allowing her move forward with someone who loves her deeply. The film is artistically crafted by Emma Thompson with careful detail of Victorian society alongside the world of art. One of the loveliest aspects of the film, visually, is the juxtaposition of paintings that reflect where Effie is on her emotional journey through time. Dakota Fanning is elegant and vulnerable as Effie. She has just enough tenacity to pull off a role with an arc such as this. Greg Wise is a stifled tyrant as John Ruskin. His temperament grows increasingly more horrid and he is borderline frightening at moments. Julie Walters, as Mrs. Ruskin, is just about as serpentine as one comes. A far cry from her famed roles as Mrs. Weasley in the beloved Harry Potter films, Walters is a crazed woman who needs to “cut the cord” already. The handsome Tom Sturridge plays Pre-Raphaelite Painter, John Everett Millais and the eventual object of Miss Gray’s affection. Emma Thompson portrays Lady Eastlake with an ease known to few actresses of our time. I could think of no other woman to play this part. Her watchful eye and skilled hand play such a massive part in this historical drama.Shot on location in Scotland, London, and Venice, EFFIE GRAY is a beautiful portrait of a young woman’s inner strength and the world she so desperately tried to escape. With a haunting score and outstanding performances by a true ensemble cast, EFFIE GRAY will inspire those with passion for art and life.
In EFFIE GRAY, Emma Thompson peers boldly inside the forbidden realms of Victorian society through the true story of the marriage of Effie Gray and renowned art critic John Ruskin, courageously exposing a secret world of unrequited passion hidden behind the veil of an opulent public life. Set in an era when neither divorce, nor gay marriage were an option, EFFIE GRAY is the story of a beautiful young woman coming of age, and finding her own voice in a world where women were expected to be seen but not heard. Within the lush environs of a world brimming with art, painting and high society and feverishly bucolic scenes of the Scottish countryside, EFFIE GRAY explores the intricate relationship between sexual intolerance, repression and desire which continue to permeate society today. In this impeccably crafted period drama, Thompson delicately and incisively probes the marital politics of the Victorian Era, and beyond.
Cast: Emma Thompson, Dakota Fanning, Tom Sturridge, David Suchet, Sir Derek Jakobi, Julie Walters, Riccardo Scamarcio and the legendary Claudia Cardinale.
The film opens nationwide on April 3.