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Notes on a Scandal


Stars: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Phil Davis

Director: Richard Eyre

Although the story paints her as the villain in this intense drama of lesbian lust and abuse of trust, Judi Dench's performance as an ageing teacher, Barbara, is so strong and completely three-dimensional that it's her life and career you want to save rather than that of her colleague, Sheba (Blanchett), an art teacher who allows herself to be seduced by a 15-year-old Irish boy (Simpson) with a talent for rather more than sketching.

And, after all, it's Sheba who has both broken the law and betrayed her husband (Nighy), daughter and Down's syndrome son. Barbara's only 'crime' is to keep quiet about the affair because it suits her own ends - an eventual liaison with Sheba herself.

Unfortunately, Sheba doesn't share her inclinations, and Barbara is left with 'the distance between life as you dream it and life as it is'.

Steady stuff, this, and a must for Dench fans (her Oscar nod always looked a probability), marred only by a few glitches in Patrick Marber's dialogue. 'Did she go to hospital?' asks Blanchett of a former 'victim' of Barbara's advances. 'No,' replies Dench, 'she took a job in Stoke.' Very Alan Bennett, but an unwelcome tension-breaker here.

David Quinlan

UK 2006. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Technicolor.
91 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 27 Jan 2007