"Effie Gray is more than just an ordinary costume drama"
Move over Downton Abbey, one of the most prominent and shocking Victorian scandals is finally set to the hit the silver screen. Renowned art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and his teenage muse bride Euphemia “Effie” Gray (Dakota Fanning) find themselves trapped in a limbo marriage, after Ruskin is deeply repulsed by his wife’s physical form on their wedding night leading him to callously refuse to consummate their marriage much to the young Effie’s bewilderment.
With all round national treasure Emma Thompson at the helm penning the aforementioned (albeit lawsuit troubled) screenplay, Effie Gray is an emotive portrayal of a marital break down in which divorce is strictly off limits. Leaving her beloved Scotland behind Effie embarks on newly married life with Ruskin by moving in with his dictatorial parents (David Suchet and Julie Walters), though she soon begins to wilt under the domineering regime of her overbearing mother in law.
Thompson adeptly depicts the oppression that Victorian women faced, when class and propriety were valued more than happiness. Yet with the guidance of the astute Lady Eastlake (Thompson) and the eminent Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) Effie soon appreciates that there is a world of love and passion past the cage she is presently imprisoned in.
Director Richard Laxton revels in the multi-location scenery of London, Scotland and Venice, and uses gothic undertones to capture the bleak and unwelcoming world Effie inhabits. Despite the illustrious cast Effie Gray fails to pack the deep emotional punch needed, thus leaving the audience yearning for more.
Verdict - With scene stealing performances from Julie Walters as John Ruskin's tyrannical mother, Effie Gray is more than just an ordinary costume drama, and despite its flaws this Victorian love triangle is certainly one to look out for.