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Illicit relationships

Posted at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2007 by Euan Kerr

I don't know how long "Notes on a scandal" will dally in local film halls, but if you are in the mood for a grown-up drama, make sure you see it.

Judi Dench is pitch perfect as the narrator of the story of an affair between a high school art teacher called Sheba (Cate Blanchett) and a 15 year old pupil. Dench plays Barbara, an older teacher at the London school who becomes Sheba's friend and confidante.

It's a complicated situation, and grows rapidly more involved as it becomes clear Barbara's motives are not entirely altruistic. It could be a romantic interest she has in the luminous Sheba, but deep down it seems it's more about control.

"Notes" strikes a chord because it is filled with illicit relationships in one form or another. Sheba for example is married to her former college teacher (the always watchable Bill Nighy,) and the relationships within the school staff are fraught with intrigue. It's hard to avoid thinking of situations from our own lives which either generate recognition, or even sympathy with one of the characters.

The very human flaws of the characters make them all the more real, and Dench is queen of it all, creating a woman with whom we can sympathize, but who is a monster nonetheless.

January 2007
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