A passion project for Emma Thompson (who wrote and stars in the film), this compelling drama explores Victorian social and sexual mores via the true story of Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning).
Gray was the young bride of art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise). When Ruskin wished to dissolve their short marriage, he noted to his lawyer that Effie “was not formed to excite passion… there were certain circumstances in her person that completely checked it”.
This famous episode has become a metaphor for both a Victorian innocence and prudishness (with Ruskin’s apparent disgust at the reality of the female body seen as a reaction to the artistically perfect ideal that this famous aesthete was so used to seeing in art) and also a particular kind of tabloid prurience, in society’s reaction to the scandal. But is this what really happened?
Thompson’s intelligent screenplay explores the truth of the breakdown of their marriage, its eventual annulment and Effie’s sensational new relationship with one of Ruskin’s acolytes, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painter John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) in this handsomely shot, brilliantly performed film with a fantastic ensemble cast.