Dark, Intense, Unethical, Dame Judi as I have never seen her before. In my view one of the best British movies of the last decade.
Dame Judi Dench plays a veteran High School teacher, Barbara Covett, whom comes to befriend the new art teacher, Sheba Hart (Blanchett). Sheba is a married woman with two children. These two children are a spoilt brat of a teenage girl, and a boy with down's syndrome. Her husband (Nighy) is twenty years older than her. Barbara on the other hand lives alone with her cat and her diary as her only companions. Barbara becomes good friends to Sheba, but when she discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a fifteen year-old student, her intentions and ulterior motive are not what they seem. She sees this as an opportunity to get what she really wants from Sheba.
Judi Dench absolutely steals this film, this is her darkest and probably most fulfilling role I have ever seen her play. The best part is she also adds subtlety and humor to bring to the fold a balanced performance that allows you to in some way, feel for this character, because of her loneliness that she feels while at the same time hating her for taking the opportunity left open to her and her general bitterness at the world and the characters we see inhabit it. I was in awe. I love watching movies with dark, disturbed characters because, I feel they give actors a true chance to stretch their acting muscles.
This movie revolves around the theme of loneliness and what it could make people do in extreme cases of loneliness. The story you could say is viewing of two people in love in different ways, but are also lonely in their very different lives. Sheba becomes besotted with a student, whom gives her a sob story, that unfortunately she opens her heart too. She is just so vulnerable and defenseless, It's not only dishonest and unethical, for her to do this as she keeps telling herself, unfortunately once he tells her shes cute, she just cannot help herself, succumb to his unethical longings.
A lot of the scenes show Barbara writing her diary, with Judi Dench speaking inner monologues to explain what shes writing, these scenes just gripped me so much, they form the title of the film, by that I mean they are the Notes of the Scandal from Barbara's point of view. Dench fully deserved her Oscar nod for this film. It gets even better, the rest of the cast are also spot on, Blanchett plays a very vulnerable and shy character, which is why she gets misled so easily by the student. Blanchett also got a Oscar nod for her role very much deserved too. The twist and turns in this "friendship" between both women, with Barbara having so many inner demons is just great to watch unfold from both leads. You know things are not going to work out for either of them. The film maybe under a hour and a half but there is so much plot and sheer acting performances that you do not even mind the short run time. Dench and Blanchett are helped along with a very good performance from Bill Nighy, as the husband of Sheba. For me Nighy is one of them actors who always gives it his all, even in this small role he has some wonderful, understated but emotional scenes with Cate Blanchett.
I fully recommend this movie to people whom love psychological thrillers, or even those who count themselves as fans of Alfred Hitchcock. I feel even that great director himself would enjoy this, dark tale of loneliness that Director Richard Eyre, masterfully wove together.