agmtw logo
search
Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

A wicked psychological thriller told with melodramatic flair, this is an acting masterclass from Judi Dench

7.8

Movie

United Kingdom, United States of America
English, French
Drama, Romance
2006
RICHARD EYRE
Adrian Scarborough, Andrew Simpson, Anne-Marie Duff
92 min

TLDR

You’ll never be able to see Judi Dench the same again.

What it's about

After discovering her younger colleague has entered into a sexual relationship with a student, a middle-aged high school teacher uses the sordid secret to her own advantage.

The take

Acerbic diary excerpts provide the narration for this taut psychological thriller, but don’t be fooled: as Notes on a Scandal teases, single schoolteacher Barbara (Judi Dench) might not be filling these pages with the truth — at least, not intentionally. There are early tells that she might not be as reliable a narrator as we expect, given her reputation as a no-nonsense battleaxe: for one, her characteristic surliness dissolves alarmingly quickly upon meeting Sheba (Cate Blanchett), an idealistic young art teacher. Notes on a Scandal doesn’t overplay this hand, though: until its explosive climax, the psychological drama is mostly read between the lines, as we watch Barbara enthusiastically pursue a “friendship” with her younger colleague. 

What makes Notes doubly gripping is that Barbara isn’t the only one hiding dark secrets: as she soon discovers, the married Sheba has begun a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. That disturbing revelation gives Barbara an upper hand, a means of manipulating Sheba into validating her delusions about their relationship. What follows is a gripping twin character study, one that plays out in the heightened realm of a melodrama as their sordid secrets become entwined. Darkly camp and spanning just 92 perfectly paced minutes, this is an intense immersion into two very ugly psyches.

What stands out

It goes without saying that these are very tricky roles to play, but Blanchett and Dench are more than up to the challenge, imbuing their monster-like characters with surprising nuance. Despite Blanchett’s role being the more salacious of the two, it’s Dench’s vindictive schemer who emerges as the most psychologically juicy. With her twisty performance as a sociopath who is, at turns, desperately sympathetic and deeply repellent, the legendary Dame manages to eclipse her brilliant co-star and steal the film.

Comments

Add a comment

Your name

Your comment

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

The Dead Don’t Hurt (2024)

Viggo Mortensen directs this stunning alternative Western

7.5

Mommy (2014)

Aiming straight for the heart while punching you in the guts, Mommy is a crazy chamber piece about a widowed mother and her next-door neighbor bringing up a savage teenager

9.6

Tom at the Farm (2015)

Xavier Dolan brings white knuckle intensity to this taut thriller

8.0

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Martin Scorsese grapples with harrowing history and the limits of storytelling in this monumental masterpiece

8.2

La Chimera (2023)

A dreamy, bewitching film that ponders on ideas of lostness and longing

8.0

Paris Je T’aime (2006)

An anthology ode to the City of Love stacked with talent behind and in front of the camera

7.6

Things to Come (2016)

A beautiful, bittersweet portrait of resilience

8.5

An Impossible Love (2018)

Mother and daughter reconcile through this emotional recounting of their tragic relationship

7.3

Fair Play (2023)

You can't go wrong with the thrill of losing money, power, and love, all in one film

7.5

Funny Games (1997)

A deeply unpleasant, provocative horror film that pushed the boundaries of cinema

7.5

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw logo

© 2024 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.