Governess, The

Director: Sandra Goldbacher

Rosina (Minni Driver) is a Jewess living in 1840s London; when papa dies she decides to brave a new world. Knowing she’ll be rejected as a Jew, she adopts a protestant identity and arrives on a remote Scottish island to work as a governess. Her charge’s father, Charles (Tom Wilkinson), is obsessed with the secrets of photography. Rosina is fascinated and soon the pair are entwined. Writer-director Sandra Goldbacher knows how to create atmosphere; the early London scenes have a musty, sensual sweetness straight out of Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. The edgy camera, forever dodging behind and between mirrors and glassware, alerts us to potential fracture: even before the father’s double life is exposed, we know something’s amiss… The script keeps you intrigued and the use of photographs as a metaphor for emotional ‘preservation’ is delicately done.
Driver – she of the handsome hamster cheeks – is full of hoity-toity charisa. Also, Wilkinson’s wonderfully quiet performance doesn’t go to waste. Charles is a man outmatched by his lover and you know exactly why Rosina’s most heartfelt gift seems to him an absolute violation.

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