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The Governess (1998) HD online

The Governess (1998) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Drama / Romance
Original Title: The Governess
Director: Sandra Goldbacher
Writers: Sandra Goldbacher
Released: 1998
Duration: 1h 55min
Video type: Movie
When the father of privileged Rosina da Silva violently dies, she decides to pass herself off as a gentile and finds employment with a family in faraway Scotland. Soon she and the family father, Charles, start a passionate secret affair.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Minnie Driver Minnie Driver - Rosina da Silva
Tom Wilkinson Tom Wilkinson - Mr. Charles Cavendish
Florence Hoath Florence Hoath - Clementina Cavendish
Jonathan Rhys Meyers Jonathan Rhys Meyers - Henry Cavendish
Harriet Walter Harriet Walter - Mrs. Cavendish
Arlene Cockburn Arlene Cockburn - Lily Milk, the Maid
Emma Bird Emma Bird - Rebecca
Adam Levy Adam Levy - Benjamin
Countess Koulinskyi Countess Koulinskyi - Aunt Sofka (as The Countess Koulinskyi)
Bruce Myers Bruce Myers - Rosina's Father
Diana Brooks Diana Brooks - Rosina's Mother
Raymond Brody Raymond Brody - Litnoff
Olga Olga - Leonora
Cyril Shaps Cyril Shaps - Doctor
Kendal Cramer Kendal Cramer - Young Rosina

Reviews: [25]

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    Do not be put off by the negative comments in the user reviews here! This is a thoughtful, lovely, well-made film. I would watch it again, which is, for me, the highest endorsement. I can not comprehend how anyone could find it "boring".
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    the monster

    The myth of the governess in English literature, seems to have been the inspiration for film maker Sandra Goldbacher, who makes an auspicious debut with this feature. Never had a first time director been so blessed to be working with a winning team behind her. The glorious cinematography by Ashley Rowe, the music by Ed Shearmur, to name just two, make "The Governess" a satisfying movie to watch.

    We are taken to the England of the 1830s. The story shows us a Jewish family of means. Rosina, the oldest daughter is a sophisticated young woman who seems to thrive in that society. When her father is killed, Rosina's world goes to pieces. She decides to seek employment as a governess for a young girl in the Island of Skye, in the Hebrides. The trip Rosina undertakes in primitive transport makes her think whether she had made the right choice, or not. All she sees is the lush green of the English countryside around her.

    Her employers are a Scotish couple of means. Charles Cavendish is a man of science working in his own kind of photography. His wife, seems to be a woman who is bored out of her mind. The young charge, Clementina, doesn't like the idea of being bossed by the new governess. Rosina has changed her name and passes herself as a Christian by the name of Mary Blackchurch. There is also a young son, Henry, who is away at school.

    Mary, who has received an education in London, surprises Mr. Cavendish and soon becomes his assistant in his experiments. The admiration Charles feels toward the young woman soon turns into a passion that is reciprocated by Mary, who we are led to believe has not had any sexual experience before. This newly found passion in Charles soon gets the best of him as he feels it makes him neglect his interest, which has been helped immensely by Mary's innate intelligence.

    In a surprising turn of events, Mary decides that since she can't have Charles, she must leave the island and return to London, not before presenting Mrs. Cavendish with the naked picture of her husband she took, which appears to have been the excuse for the break in their illicit relationship. At the end, Rosina is back to London where she is seen practicing the new technique she learned by working with Charles in the island.

    Minnie Driver totally dominates the film. Her Rosina/Mary is perhaps her best role in her career. Some comments point to the fact that Ms. Driver seems older to play this woman, but in our humble opinion, she seems to have an understanding of the character and makes it come alive. Tom Wilkinson, a great actor that probably hasn't been recognized as he should, does an outstanding job in capturing Charles. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Henry the son that comes back from school and ends up falling in love for the governess. Harriel Walter and Florence Hoath play Mrs. Cavendish and Clementina well.

    The film is a triumph for a novel director. Ms. Goldbacher clearly shows to be a voice to be reckoned with in the English cinema.
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    Gorgeous, stunning film! Minnie Driver shines in this film, as do several of her co-stars. Fascinating, unusual story as well. Most of these period films end in tragedy; no if, and, or buts about it. The "rise and fall" of the protagonist is the norm, as many Merchant-Ivory films portray. However, one of the pleasing aspects of this film was that the ending was mixed, and not as simple as "heroine tries for the moon; fails and is punished". In addition, I can't remember the last time I saw Sephardic Jews portrayed in a film. The vast majority of time, only Ashkenaz Jews are pictured (Jews from northern Europe and Russia). Quite refreshing to see something new. A beautiful film overall!
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    The Governess was a beautiful film that I think deserves more credit than it got. I feel this film followed in the same quality and artistic depth as Jane Campion's 'The Piano'. Of course the story is very unique. Minnie Driver plays Rossina da Silva, a Jewess in victorian era England, who is forced to find employment in a Christian family when her father dies. She takes on the persona of 'Mary Blackchurch' a pious Christian women. She ends up in distant Scotland, where her employer turns out to be a deeply intelligent scientist - whose family feels detached from society because of his work. Mr. Cavendish's work interest Rossina and in their work they discover not only some breathtaking advances in science but new emotions and feelings, which they each explore differently. The film technique is just impeccable. There are beautiful shots on the shores of the ocean. The use of color and glass distortions makes Rosinna's Jewish world come to life like I have never seen before. I think I loved this film, not only for its story, but also because it opened up a realm to me that I had never been aware of: Jewish life in the 19th century. Minnie Driver is wonderful in this film, her Rosina is stronger than any other role I have seen her in. Tom Wilkinson of 'Full Monty' fame is also a very believable and caring Mr. Cavendish. SEE THIS MOVIE ! It is so beautiful and the soundtrack is moving, almost haunting. The governess is definitely on my list of favorite films of all time !
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    I thought this movie was beautiful. It was somewhat overlooked in America when it was released in 1998, partly because it had to compete against some higher profile British films and partly because it is not commercial. It could not be sold to the general public for a very sad reason - most movie goers have absolutely no sense or knowledge of history. So, the story of being a Jewess in mid-19th Century England and Scotland would seem too odd to them. In addition, the average person might have difficulty in grasping how amazing photography was to people in those days.

    For those who do have knowledge of history, I highly recommend this film. Some might say that Rosina [Minnie Driver] is too much of a modern character, but intelligent women, rebellious women and highly sensual women have ALWAYS existed, regardless of the morals and hypocrisies of the times they lived in.
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    I found this movie to be quite beautiful, and it opened a period of history seldom explored in films. It tells the tale of a Jewess in 19th Century London who must disguise herself as a gentile to obtain employment as a governess. Her joy for life and her searching mind attract her to her employer, who is trying to discover a way to "freeze" the photographic image. It is very much of its time. Minnie Driver is excellent, very sensual and convincing. Tom Wilkinson is incredibly strong and attractive. The dark colors and the general sense of gloom are very well depicted. I thought it was a marvelous film.
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    Why all the negativity about this utterly brilliant motion picture? First of all, Minnie Driver is absolutely splendid. The entire film is beautiful to watch, the story palpably intelligent and erotic. The characters rich and spellbinding. I was enraptured by the first 5 minutes and the story never let me down. Tom Wilkinson was excellent as was Harriet Walter. A definite must see for lovers of intelligent period pieces. Very reminiscent visually of Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady" and Shekhar Kapur's "Elizabeth." Too bad the film (and especially Driver's performance) got so little attention when it was released this summer. Rent it, and then decide how you feel.
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    The story is not up to great things, oft told one way or another and smacking of Jane Austen romantic drama aspirations: a beautiful jewess of sephardi descent in 1830s London decides to take the job of governess to a little girl in a great big mansion supposedly on the Island of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland (though I did glimpse a bit of Glencoe, Scottish mainland, and indeed what was definitely the beautiful Cuillins on Skye) where she falls in love with the master of the household, father of the little girl, and then the son falls in love with her. Well, that alone might have you wandering over to the next projection sala or just twiddling with the remote control, if it were not for certain other factors which may well be called redeeming, so good they are.

    Minnie Driver certainly looks the beautiful jewess, but her interpretation goes a bit awry at times, or even careers off the rails; her performance has ups and downs of feelings and passions which do not really make much sense. Better directing might well have produced better results from Ms. Driver, as well as the fact that the focussing of the story is very much a feministic appreciation, rather slanted perhaps, forgiveably so I am not so sure, rather as if Ms. Goldbacher herself was brought up on the aforementioned Jane Austen, as well as Daphné du Maurier, a touch of the Brontës, and she finally spiced it all up with some misgivings from D.H. Lawrence. The result is a confusion of desire and sex being mistaken for romantic love. But don't we all, anyway?

    The excellent photography and scenification makes up quite a lot for many of these pitfalls; the costumes and the settings of the interior of the house of such lucky landed-gentry is superb, as well as the scenes in London in the opening and closing parts of the film. This visual experience is greatly enhanced by the musical setting. Ed Shearmur has done an excellent job of creating his own `sephardi' music, helped by offerings from the Israeli singer, Ofra Haza. The music contributed greatly to the setting of scenes, ably supplying tone and atmosphere. Such that I feel one could enjoy this film solely for the photography, costumes and sets, and the music, and you could quite happily skip most of the story. It is not that the story is so bad, just that it is not anything special to write home to mother about, although she might well be the first to disagree.

    The Sephardi songs made me remember an old recording I have of some very beautiful melodies sung by Soledad Bravo on a CBS record maybe 20 years ago and which might be found on a Sony CD. The intepretation of these songs, sung in `ladino' (sometimes called judezmo) which is an archaic form of today's Spanish, is pretty authentic. Ladino is still used today by descendents of people thrown out of Spain during the `Inquisición', and now living in parts of Turkey (specifically I found it being spoken in Izmir), Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Croatia coast. Within Israel of course, this language is pretty frequent.
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    Minnie Driver acts well in this fantastical story. Its about a Jewess who pretends to be a Protestant, becomes a governess who helps stablize photography in its early days, and has a torrid affair with her employer. Then finally she becomes a famous photographer.

    The nudity and romance between Minnie and Tom Wilkinson is tedious and kind of disgusting. He's just way too old for her. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a love sick puppy in one of his earlier roles.

    It's obviously based on a rather bad novel but it's beautifully filmed.

    Worth a watch if you are a fan of Minnie. Otherwise the romance leaves a bad after taste.
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    I quite enjoyed this movie. Sure, my mind wandered a lot because the story is hardly gripping. I'm also positive I won't remember much about it next week, except that Minnie Driver's talent and beauty is stunning. STUNNING. I did also feel that the leading man was poorly cast. He did not seem to me a person that a young, vibrant woman would fall for. I'm sure the script called for a older man, but age wasn't the problem. He just didn't seem to fit in with Minnie Driver. Nonetheless, the whole movie was excellently shot and wonderfully acted and extremely high quality, but conversely it's regrettably forgettable. (That's a nice phrase, no?)
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    THE GOVERNESS is a moody period piece, the meandering story of a Jewish woman who, upon the death of her father, sets out to 1830's Scotland, posing as a Gentile to get work to support her family in London.

    Rosina - or Mary, as she calls herself in a none too subtle piece of symbolic writing - is a rudderless child, a socialite with dreams of being an actress. She strikes up an alliance with her employer, and by accident solves a crucial problem in his research with photography. Giddy with success, they begin a halting and uncomfortable affair while the eldest son of her paramour falls hopelessly (and inexplicably) in love with her.

    And like a child, she fails to understand the consequences of her actions - in the end, betraying those she deceived in order to make a life for herself.

    Many claim this is something of a feminist manifesto, but I disagree. Whether intended or not, this film only resonates with me if I think of it as a cautionary tale. In the end, Rosina's greatest disappointment is the truth - that she lied, happened upon a way to help a man she wanted to be both her father and her lover, and in the end contributed nothing but destruction. As such, the end of the film gives me the impression that nothing she did, no one she used, made her happy - and that is exactly as it should be.

    Did I need a movie this long and langorous to teach me this lesson? Not at all. On the contrary, had it not been for excellent cinematography, unique score and my hope that she'd get her come-uppance, I wouldn't have stuck with it to the end of the film.

    Fans of Minnie Driver will likely be disappointed by her uneven performance but may wish to see it anyway; I doubt young female fans of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will be able to stay awake for the payoff they expect, and I can't help thinking this holds too little cultural detail to be of interest, even to photography buffs. The 3 points I award the film are solely for its visual style and score. On the strength of their other work, I assume the actors' performances are so disappointing because of a poor script and worse directing, but they are, in the end, unremarkable.
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    I'm always surprised when I see a movie with Minnie Driver. She's not the best looking actress, or the most skilled but she makes every movie she's a part of worth watching. Even Disney's Tarzan was vitalized by her sparkling voice and energetic acting. This movie places the main character in a very odd position in a house with no love. The dangerous triangle betwixt the governess, the father and the son is very interesting. I would however like to have more motives and reason for the governess treatment of the son. Also that relation seems not to "fit" in the movie and should have been given more time to grow. The photography is beautiful and the nice singing of late Ophra Haza adds value to the movie. It has been a while since I last was left so puzzled and thoughtful after a movie. See this movie with a dear friend.
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    I wanted to like this one - the situation was rich, and the setting unusual and interesting. But the story is swamped with childish female gothic romance elements that are hard to swallow. The director is unfairly prejudiced against the 'goy' characters -- content to let them be grotesque cardboard caricatures -- and inexplicably indulgent towards the homewrecking behavior of the heroine. The potentially interesting power struggle between the inventor and the governess is not really dealt with.

    Feminist film makers will get more credibility when they stop manipulating situations to throw all the sympathy to the heroine, and start dealing honestly with issues. This movie more closely resembles 'The 7 Pieces of Gold', another earnest failure, more than 'The Piano' - a real tale of passion.
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    Some actors can only convey emotion with a raised voice. Some can act with broad gestures in the face. But there is something special in Minnie Driver's beautiful face that is missed because she does it so delicately.

    She can act with her face by the slightest movement around her eyes and her mouth. It is one thing to act with one's lips but even harder I think to convey an emotion with the slightest movement of the corners of the mouth. She has large, round eyes that can look vulnerable or heartbroken or disgusted or all at the same time. Minnie has a way of looking at other actors and seeming to see right through them (especially men). We can tell by the slightest gestures in her face what she is feeling and what she is thinking.

    This makes her the perfect choice to play Rosina, a woman trapped in the society of the 1840s by the fact that she is a woman and a Jew. There are few options open to this woman. She is an intellectual but no avenue on which to use it.

    Her father is murdered and in order to support her mother and her sister she takes a job as a governess to The Cavandishs a family living on an island in Scotland. Because they would never hire a Jew she studies new testament and tells the family that she is a Protestant named Mary Blackchurch.

    The father is as much an intellectual as 'Mary' but his ignorant family falls a bit short of being interested in much of anything. Therefore he spends a lot of time working in his laboratory. He is interested in photography, a new invention and is working on a way to keep the images from fading. She becomes interested in his work. Their common interests draw them to one another. This is not a tired old story of marital infidelity but a story of an attraction that begins with a common bond.

    There is an eroticism that exists between the two but there are boundaries that keep them apart. She uses posing for him as a way for him to see her and not just her job title. There is a lot of tension going on and Driver uses her expressive face to great advantage. We know that these two would-be lovers won't cross the boundaries (they would be outcasts if they did) but we like to see them dance as close to it as they can.
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    This movie was truly awful. This woman deceives her employers right from the start and then selfishly proceeds to tear them apart. At the end you see her making a profession out of the trade she'd learned from the father of her "pupil". I put pupil in quotes because the governess never really seems to teach the child anything. She seems to hate her and can't stand being near her. I felt sorry for the little girl who simply wanted to be loved, absent that, it was understandable that she would say and do outrageous things just to get attention but the viewer wasn't supposed to sympathize with the little girl, the viewer was supposed to sympathize with the governess who hated her pupil and manipulated and deceived her employers. I just couldn't do it. This was not the story of a self made woman, rather, it was a window into the mind of one who uses others at every opportunity with no other thought for anyone outside of her own family. I couldn't stand the governess! This was a really horrible movie. I only paid one dollar to rent it but even that was too much!
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    If I heard the male lead say "This is madness!" one more time I would have barfed. The film is one big cliche, with fake "grind him under your heel" attitudes. Not one male in this movie has one redeeming quality; reminds me of Soviet-era films with strongly politically-oriented messages. I couldn't even understand WHY there was attraction between the leads, nor could I wait for the ending.
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    This movie had an excellent premise, and could have been a fascinating look at racism, attitudes to women at work and male female relations in England early last century. However, it simply turned into a soppy love story. But what was worse, is that the love story was totally unbelievable. The acting was for the most part poor, the direction confusing, but most of all the screenplay and the story were non-existent. The only thing I liked about the film was how dark it must have been before electric lighting. I really got a sense of just how little light one candle puts out.
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    Driver plays a Jewess in 19th century Scotland who poses as a gentile and takes a governess position to provide income for her family following her father's death. An artistically and technically excellent film, "The Governess" is flawed to the detriment of the overall effort. Driver's character grows ambiguous and the film wears on; the juxtaposition of the Jewish and Christian is overwrought; the male lead is not sufficiently charismatic; and the story stutters at the end which is anticlimactic at best. Nonetheless, well worth a look especially for Driver fans.
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    The Governess was, by far, a very pitiful film. I do not use this word loosely, as it honestly was a poor excuse for a movie. I finished watching this feature with only one word on my mind … "why"? Honestly, you could use this question at the end of every scene of this film and it would seem like it fit. There were so many inconsistencies that lead to a lack of development (both in the story and in the characters) which ultimately lead to a very confusing film with actors walking through the motions instead of giving any explanation. Scenes would occur with no foreshadowing, understanding, or drive to a complete ending. It was as if I was watching several different ideas thrown together without really any resolution. Actors were setting events in motion that did not seem to fit their character or really were resolved. This was my biggest issue with this film. The complete and utter lack of structure to this film brought all specks of foundation crumbling down with a genuine "ripple-effect" being felt throughout the rest of the film as a result.

    Let me explain myself further on this lack of consistency throughout the film. I would liken this film to a bowl of lumpy oatmeal that had a zebra in it. It made no sense nor was there any logic behind it all. Minnie Driver was the worst culprit of this deed. Her character's lines were drawn very fuzzy and nearly transparent. She would do things like talk about sex all the time with her sister, but yet she seemed very open to sexual experiences all the time. She has her first moment of passion in this film, and there is no pain or excitement. It nonchalantly happens, and this just didn't seem to fit the original conversation that we had at the beginning of the film with Rosina and her sister. She is a very intelligent woman that accidentally finds a solution to Wilkinson's problem and suddenly wants full rights to his invention? That was confusing and completely random. Is it not obvious to anyone else that her teaching methods were non-existent. Anyone in their right mind could see that she wasn't teaching Cavendish's daughter anything. The sudden and awkward relationship that randomly forms between Driver and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers nearly had me laughing out loud. I thought maybe I had discovered some magic in this film as Rhys-Meyers literally "poofed" into the scene and suddenly caused some unneeded drama. It felt that the director (or writer) was thinking that the original story was going nowhere fast, so by adding this random character we may be able to advance the plot a bit (or confuse the lesser film enthusiasts). Well, it didn't fool me, I saw that he was nearly a "cut-and-paste" character used to strengthen an already weakened story. Don't get me started on the ending, which had no consistency to the rest of the story. Again using the "cut-and-paste" method, the writer of this film needed a way to just end the story, and this was the only solution they could arrive to. It is sad when actors are forced to do things out of character … but I guess that is the name of the game in Hollywood. Fix until completely broken, or at least salvageable.

    The remainder of the story was unexciting dribble. There were maybe a handful of neat cinematography moments where you could see that there was one sliver of creativity trying to peak through coupled with some bars of decent, period piece music, but nothing to write to Grandma about. More family structure with some stronger introductions could have strengthened this film a bit more, but as I stated before, by leaving open-ended scenes just lying around the entire film, you will experience a crack in your foundation. What may seem like a sturdy story, will eventually wear down over time, and by the end of this film I felt that the house was crumbling down on top of me. Wilkinson plays his normal self in this film, while Driver apparently did not want to get naked, but everyone else had too (I will have to see a doctor after those images were burned into my eyes … eeewwww). Also, she wore the same dress everyday. That was disgusting and I could smell her through the television. Sex and dirty laundry. Now there is a great film for you! There just seemed to be some potential floating around here, but instead it was just rubbish. Nothing was answered, questions seemed to fall like snow in Alaska, and mediocrity seemed to reign supreme.

    Overall, this could have been a decent film that combined the powerful themes of science and love together, but instead it was just pitiful. I cannot stress enough the disturbing fact that characters were going through motions without any sort of pre-explanation. I don't need cinematic moments handed to me like a child, but something should have been done to build a foundation. Just remember the oatmeal with a zebra analogy that I used. If you were as confused about that as I was, then you will completely understand the film The Governess, while if you prefer zebras in your oatmeal … then, maybe this film is for you!

    Grade: * out of *****
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    After her father is murdered, Rosina (Minnie Driver) must marry without love or strike out and try something different. She changes her name and takes a job as a governess.

    Of course, she also has to hide her Jewishness and learn to be a Protestant.

    Her employer, Charles Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson) is a photographer working on a way to fix the photos he takes so that they last more than a day. She shows an interest in his work and spends her spare time helping. As expected, Minnie Drivers sensuality soon captivates him. He gives up his photographs of nature and gets into portraiture.

    He realizes that he is not her intellectual equal and, when he discovers that he was in love with a Jewess, he turns very cruel.

    She returns to London during a cholera epidemic, finding her mother dead. He new knowledge enable her family to survive, and she flourishes.

    Driver was outstanding, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also good as the son.

    Sandra Goldbacher's first feature film shows much promise.
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    "The Governess" is Mary Blackchurch's (her 'Christian' name) story. It is set in 1830s (we learn from the Daguerre reference) in London and the Scottish Isle of Skye, where she becomes a governess to help the family after her father is murdered. If we are to believe Ebert's instincts, it is the author's life story, much as "Boyz N the Hood" is.

    Being a photographer, I was 'hooked' when the film turned in that direction. Although not historically accurate, it certainly does a good job of depicting the trial and error used back in the 1800s to master a photographic process in which the resultant image could be "fixed". There was a British Cavendish, Henry, but he was not into photography. In this film, Mary accidentally helps discover a fixing process using ordinary salt water. Mary and Carles develop a bond, become lovers, Mary talks of their "future" together, Charles pulls away, "You consume me. I cannot be consumed."

    I cannot say too much about how fine a performance Minnie Driver gives here. Especially the scene near the end when she basically is willing to do anything, give anything, to avoid rejection by Charles. Failing, she returns to London, giving nude photos to Charles' wife, and taking along enough chemicals to get her started in her own photographic studio.

    Charles looks her up, she does a portrait, but the love she professed had been shattered beyond repair. She had given her whole self to Charles, had been rejected, and she moved on.

    This is a really fine film, different, but enjoyable in the vein of "Dangerous Beauty", another period piece where the female protagonist is empowered. The infidelity in "Governess" is certainly not glorified, but used in the context of a weak husband whose marriage was a routine formality, and a young girl who knew no boundaries, and found a soulmate for the first time.
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    I find this movie was quite rather odd and different. I mean, OK this governess is really much based on a Jewish aristocrat who just took up a teacher job just because she wants to support more for her family. I think it's selfish and rather strange to take up this job. I would understand the story of Jane Eyre on why she had to take up a job as a governess but I did not understand why Rosina da Silva took up the position. This will wonder in my head for a long long time really....

    Anyways, I thought Minnie Driver looked absolutely stunning, she's like an Italian goddess. I would've preferred her character to be with Jonathan Rhy Mehers character. Although, I thought his voice was too sweet for his role. I know he was meant to play as a teenage boy but I didn't think it suits him personally. You have to admit girls, he still looks hot today even if he has a fiancée xD

    I kinda like the movie but then again, it's alright to keep you going. I'll give this film 7/10.
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    Apart from being a well-acted, well-constructed film, "The Governess" should be seen by those interested both in Judaica and Romance studies. The film offers a unique occasion of hearing judezmo, the archaic Spanish spoken by Sefardi Jews, and getting acquainted with their splendid musical tradition (Classic songs, e.g. "Cuando el rey Nimrod", performed instrumentally and by Ofra Haza). It is also quite interesting to observe e.g. the characteristic head-dress worn by the protagonist when still in her London environment, and customs of the London Sefardi community as portrayed here.
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    Minnie Driver is cute and photogenic. While the male characters are charming, she is the main draw. My own observation is that Driver was a bit mature to be playing a naive young virgin forced out into the cold, cruel world, but she is fetching and made for this part.

    Now that that is out of the way, I found the film unsatisfying. The title character is largely unsympathetic. A spoiled rich girl forced to find gainful employment after the death of her father, Driver embarks on an elaborate deception. She pretends to be a Christian so that she may service - in more ways than one, it turns out - a remote, conservative British family. That this is somewhat fanciful (perhaps there were jobs closer by that paid more than 20 pounds a year?) draws a romance novel aura right from the start.

    Once ensconced in the busom of her employer's family - passing herself off as being of Italian descent when the other characters all but give her knowing winks - our heroine proceeds to: a) seduce the married patriarch (she is hardly a victim) who is disturbingly reminiscent of her own beloved papa; b) betray him with his emotionally immature son; c) photograph him sleeping nude without his knowledge or consent, which he later makes clear invaded his privacy; d) actively seek to break up his family by having him run away with her; and e) publicly expose (!) him to his family using her misbegotten photographs. Perhaps he had it coming because his qualms arose too late, but he winds up the most sympathetic figure, victim of an avenging poseur with no sense of responsibility for her actions.

    The governess winds up having the presence of mind upon leaving to steal the new-fangled photography idea (which she has improved despite having no background in it - plucky girl!) and to go into business for herself, becoming (of course) a huge success. Can't have a romance tale without the big success-is-the-best-revenge payoff, I suppose, especially at the what-goes-around-comes-around expense of the fellow who hurt her.

    The character of the patriarch is nicely, if stiffly, played by Tom Wilkinson. Once he ends the affair, he loses all color and interest - he becomes part of the scenery, as he was before the affair began. The son is played in an annoyingly bratty fashion by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. The other female characters are largely ciphers, except for some cute scenes by little Florence Hoath. The overall effect is that everyone is filtered through the governess' perspective and her changing emotional priorities, in keeping with the romance novel attitude.

    Driver's characterization is a bit erratic. After maintaining a cool, calculating exterior, the governess incongruously explodes into a fit of sobbing passion some time after being rejected - then just as suddenly resumes her passionless, predatory behavior. More time devoted to her emotional development would have been useful.

    While by nature your standard bodice-ripper - Driver quite literally rips off her own bodice - I term this a proto-feminist film. The caveats are that the "feminist" impulses arise in a catty and under-handed context and the heroine seems more driven by spite and desire than by intent. She encounters adversity, then adventure and romance, then betrayal and bitter revenge, then brilliant success - yes, I think I've seen that plot before.
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    This extraordinary period piece was breath taking and at times painfully real. Rosina (Mary Blackchurch) becomes interested in her employer's experiments with photography fixation and subsequently falls in love (while pursued by her employer's son). Rosina's first experience with love is tumultuous and passionate. Rosina's employer, played brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson, shared her passion but was unable to embrace the new emotions awakened within. Charles Cavendish, like his castle, was at times dim and hollow. Rosina (Minnie Driver) tries to bring life to an otherwise cold and lifeless environment. Some viewers have wondered why the Rosina character would fall for the older man, when the son (Henry) was obviously smitten. Considering the immature and bizarre behavior of Henry Cavendish (played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), should anyone wonder at all? The senior Cavendish despite his shortcomings possessed a mysteriously masculine allure that would charm any young woman looking for both a lover and a father figure. Unfortunately, in this story the viewer will witness that love (alone) is not always enough to sustain a relationship. This film is well done and worth watching.