Unnecessary. Ralph Fiennes encores as director/star in this bio-pic on a relentlessly social Charles Dickens, approaching middle-age without wifely emotional or intellectual support. Like many a rich, famous man, he takes an interest, and then sexual comfort, in a much younger mistress (from a family of actors), and generally deals poorly with the messy situation. Fiennes, shooting much of the first half in a fussy, close manner, also deals poorly with the messy situation. Worse, he’s unable to develop the cast chemistry to make us care about what drew these people to (or away from) each other. And a heavily foreshadowed train crash ends up making little difference, playing out like a tease. There is a story to be told here, but Fiennes misses it. Perhaps an earlier starting point; one that goes back to the early, unexpected death of Dickens’ beloved sister-in-law. A tragedy neither Dickens nor his constantly pregnant wife ever fully recovered from. Story notes to follow . . .
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Fiennes’ acting/directing debut on a modernized Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS/’11 was uneven, but worth two looks on MAKSQUIBS. Look it up in our Search Box.