How far would we go for a friend? When is the line between genuine friendship and obsession crossed? Barbara is a teacher who always felt alone, especially after her only friend has left. She meets the new art teacher Sheba Hart, and determined that she would be her new friend, the replacement for her old one. The relationship works to her advantage when she seizes an opportunity to hold on to Sheba after uncovering her secret. What follows is Barbara's prodding into Sheba's life wanting to be part of it, that she would go to a different extent that would eventually threaten the relationship.
When you get a complicated character as Barbara, it's hard to see what she would do next. Her exterior persona is very different from what she really is on the inside. As the film progresses, as much as I'd want to understand her character, I can't. It's like she's devoid of emotion, acting on the pretense of her obsession. It's an obsession she masks with love and friendship, that she blinds herself on what these things really mean. She doesn't know how to be a friend, more or so how to love. Just when you think you understand her character enough, she does something that would make you think otherwise. She's not smart, or cunning. She's a kind of person that puts meaning to things that don't really mean much at all, or mean a different thing. Barbara may have a clinical problem, but because she doesn't let people in her inner persona, it's difficult to judge her based on perception alone. People who have glimpse at her real personality abandoned her, and she would eventually move on to the next victim. Judi Dench's portrayal was amazing. She embodied the character in such a way that she doesn't let any expression to what the inner thoughts of her character is escape, besides the necessary reaction needed for her scene. She delivered her lines very well, and with the way she portrayed the character, you can expect not to sympahize with her because she's not a character worth of sympathy. It's like everything Barbara does is some kind of a ruse. Judi Dench was amazing, and she was equally complimented with the great performance of Blanchett.
Sheba might have been playing a supporting character, but her character is as interesting as Barbara's. I would have like to see how the situations played out in Sheba's point, as it was later established in the film that Barbara has the notion of over exaggeration. How Barbara describes events were soon debunked by how Sheba and her family really feel about Barbara's presence, so what was really happening? What was real and what was not about the relationship? Is Barbara really choosing to blind herself to reality, and choose to see what she fits? Does Sheba know about it, and can she see through the pretense? It would have been nice to see more from Sheba, considering that Barbara is a complicated character, but only knowing what Barbara knows fuels the entire production, giving us more reason to eventually see who Barbara really is. Cate Blanchett delivers an equally great performance as Sheba, although we're not given a lot of her character to work with. Throughout the film it was rare to see a bask of happiness in her expressions, and her smiles were only clouded with trouble that her eyes gave away. She was having the affair, but we never see a glimpse of her being truly happy, as she always had her family to think of, even in their intimate moments.
I have to give it to the rest of the supporting cast: Bill Nighy who played Richard (and had this great moment in the film), and Andrew Simpson, including the very young Juno Temple (who also had her 'big' moment). Albeit their limited screen time, they all had good performances, and frankly I don't know who else could play their characters. In all those compliments, it was really the women who carried the entire film, their performances complimenting each other.
Final Word: The story might be simple, but the performances of Blanchett and Dench certainly makes it a memorable one.
Cast: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Andrew Simpson
Director: Richard Eyre