After her marriage to John Ruskin, young Effie Gray moves to London to stay with her husband’s family; however, she learns quickly that she is not welcome by John’s parents, and with John’s neglectful attitude towards his new wife, Effie finds herself isolated, and desperate for affection.
Before I saw this movie, I have to admit, I had absolutely no idea who Effie Gray was, nor what her story would be about. The thing that drew me to this film was the cast list. I’ve been a fan of Dakota Fanning for many years (Hide and Seek, War of the Worlds, Man on Fire), so naturally I jumped at the chance to watch this film, particularly as it was written by the talented Emma Thompson. However, this film is one of those things where you really mustn’t judge a film by who is involved in it. I’m not saying that Effie Gray is a bad film, nor is it a bad story…but it is a little dull.
Dakota Fanning plays the downtrodden wife part exceptionally, and no matter how little you find yourself invested in the story, you immediately feel your heart go to her, as you watch her struggle to try and get the affection she so desperately desires from her husband. But if I’m going to be completely honest, she is the only actress who shows the audience she is worth her salt. Even the legendary Julie Walters fails to leave much of an impression as Dakota’s new, unwelcoming mother in law, and whilst she makes it clear no woman is good enough for her son, I don’t think we see the venom that should be spitting from her at the intrusion of Effie Gray into her home. Emma Thompson is also something of a disappointment in this film. Whether it’s because she wrote the film and wanted more time behind the camera than in front of it or not, I don’t know, but I don’t think we see enough of her character for her to truly show off her acting skills. True, we warm to her immediately as she introduces herself to Effie, but she only appears a handful more times, which makes me wonder what the real point in her character was at all.
Essentially, this is a love story between three people; Effie, John and Everett. However, you’d think that a neglectful husband would be more despicable, you’d think that a desperate wife would be more seductive and you’d think the third party would be doing more to sleep with the desperate wife. Whilst this story has all the makings of a fine soap drama, we have to believe that Emma Thompson has stayed true to the real story, because there is very little chemistry on stage between Effie and either men, and there is next to no-action from the husband who seems oblivious to his surroundings. You can’t help but feel cheated out of a good fight scene!
Although I actually did enjoy this film, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who either doesn’t know the story of Effie Gray before hand, or those who aren’t a fan of the genre. It really is the story of a woman who realises she married the wrong man, and though she desperately wants to change his view of her, knows she can’t. The story can be a little slow at times, and more than once, I found my mind wandering. It has been brilliantly casted with some of today’s finest actors (Even a cameo of Russell Tovey as George the Butler was a pleasant surprise), but even their skills as actors wasn’t enough to keep me interested for the entire film.
Director: Richard Laxton.
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Tom Sturridge.
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Release Date: 23rd February 2015