Film Review: Notes on a Scandal (2006)

A marvellously against-type Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett score a huge hit in Notes on a Scandal

“Lasagne irritates my bowels, I’ll ask for a small portion”

Intelligently adapted from Zoë Heller’s novel by Patrick Marber, you get the feeling that Notes on a Scandal would be good even if anyone was acting in it. But since Richard Eyre’s film boasts Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett as its leads, it is something extraordinary.

Barbara and Sheba both teach at the same Islington secondary school. Barbara a long-serving history teacher, Sheba a brand new recruit to the art department, an unlikely friendship develops between the pair, one which detonates when the latter starts an affair with a pupil.

Barbara is infuriated but mainly because she’s jealous rather than outraged. And Dench is brilliantly cast against type here as the bitterly lonely woman who has made vengeance an artform. Blanchett excels too as the slightly floaty Sheba, rebelling against her family life almost casually.

Around them is a cracking cast. Billy Nighy as Sheba’s older husband, Joanna Scanlan and Wendy Nottingham as fellow teachers. And Eyre winds tightly the screws of this psychological thriller, which darts in and around the shattering of many a liberal, middle-class cliché.

 

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