Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal (2006)
  • Time: 92 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Richard Eyre
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy


Barbara Covett is lonely and bitter teacher at a high school, nearing retirement. She spends her time writing up a diary and caring for an elderly cat. When Sheba Hart joins the faculty, Barbara is interested in the young woman. Barbara befriends her, and Sheba invites Barbara to lunch with the family. Barbara writes up scornful remarks about the husband and is particularly caustic about their son, who has Down’s Syndrome. The drama begins when Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a fifteen-year-old student, Steven. Barbara sees she can coerce and influence Sheba. She demands that Sheba break it off. When Sheba fails to, Barbara strikes out, disclosing the affair to other faculty. The school acts and Sheba is let go. Barbara is also fired for not disclosing the business to officials; however, we learn that there has been a history – Barbara has stalked a previous teacher, and the school is glad to get rid of her. In the spiraling crisis of Sheba’s life, Sheba is forced to move out of her home. Sheba is then manipulated into living with Barbara. However, it becomes clear that the older woman wants a romantic partner; Sheba reacts to this angrily.

One comment

  • Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett star in “Notes on a Scandal,” a 2006 film directed by Richard Eyre. Zoe Heller’s novel was adapted by Patrick Marber.

    Dench plays Barbara Covett, a teacher in a British high school who fits the classic old-fashioned idea of “spinster” — older, plain, and living with her cat. Angry and bitter, she’s a lesbian who latches onto women she can’t have, befriends them, builds up a fantasy in her mind about the person and her relationship with that person, becomes a nuisance, and winds up feeling hurt and betrayed when she is ultimately rejected. Covett keeps a very detailed journal.

    Into this web comes the flighty new art teacher, Sheba (Cate Blanchett), to whom Barbara is very attracted. They become friends. Barbara learns that Sheba is a free spirit who feels a little trapped by her home life, which includes a much older husband (Bill Nighy) and a child with Downs syndrome. Then, by accident, Barbara sees Sheba having sex with a 15-year-old student. She confronts Sheba but promises not to report her, but the affair must end. The secret they share becomes a form of emotional blackmail.

    This is a truly excellent drama with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. Judi Dench is remarkable and in this rigid, jealous, deeply disturbed character, she manages to find a little humor as well. Cate Blanchett, a chameleon if there ever was one, looks absolutely beautiful and is great as a confused, needy woman. The final scene between the women is both disturbing and magnificent.

    Highly recommended. “Notes on a Scandal” is a disturbing, emotional film, deeply involving, and a must see.

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