Reviews - The Governess
Reviewed By Chris Coombes
I was at the first screening in 1999 and on Sunday I realised how important the Keswick Film Club has been to me over the years, and how grateful I am to the volunteers who keep it running and who are responsible for bringing so many fascinating films to Keswick.
The Governess is a 1998 British film directed by Sandra Goldbacher and starring Minnie Driver and Tom Wilkinson. It is an early Victorian drama set in London and on a Scottish island. In London, Rosina Da Silva (Driver) is shaken by the murder of her father, a wealthy Jewish merchant. To deal with family debts, Rosina places a classified ad in a local newspaper and gets a job as a nanny with a gentile family in Scotland. Adopting the name Mary Blackchurch and posing as a gentile, she joins the dysfunctional Cavendish family, caring for young Clementina (Florence Hoath) and fending off the advances of teenage son Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).The reclusive but domineering head of the household is philologist and inventor Charles Cavendish (Wilkinson). When Rosina helps Charles with his photographic experiments, a sexual relationship develops between them that profoundly changes things for both of them.
Many of the elements of the story are fairly predictable, but it is delightful to watch Rosina, a young woman full of vitality and ideas for her future, overcome stifling Victorian values and habits, casual anti-Semitism and sexism – all whilst grieving for her father and her old life - to pursue her goal of becoming a professional photographer. The idea of linking a bid for personal freedom with the early development of photography is intriguing. It is a sensuous, beautiful film that turns many stereotypes on their heads, and for these reasons it remains as refreshing and entertaining as it was in 1999. It was great to see it again and be reminded of how far the Keswick Film Club has come.
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