In the Picture

Albert Nobbs

Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

Rated M

Thirty years ago Glenn Close played the title role in a stylised stage production of Albert Nobbs, based on the short story by Irish novelist George Moore. Since then Close has endeavoured to have a film made from the story which she has now finally co-produced, co-written and starred in.

Colombian-born director and cinematographer Rodrigo Garcia (son of writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez) has made a number of independent films and various television series, and is best known for directing Mother and Child, Passengers and Nine Lives.

Albert Nobbs is a period drama set in Dublin in the 1800s. It is a fascinating study of the time, of the well-to-do and those who serve them in the luxurious Morrison's Hotel. But it is also the captivating story of the hotel's quiet and unassuming butler Albert Nobbs. In a remarkable and career-defining performance, Glenn Close plays a man who for 30 years has hidden that she is a woman under her butler's attire. Destitute and abused as a teenager she found that a second-hand suit and a job as a male waiter seemed her only chance to survive. Painstakingly she has been secreting her earnings towards her dream of independence one day as a shopkeeper.

Glenn Close's performance is outstanding; naive and repressed, her eyes portray such a mix of hope and fear. Close is accompanied by a brilliant ensemble cast including ever-reliable Brendan Gleeson as the alcoholic doctor, Pauline Collins as the hotel proprietress and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a rather debauched viscount. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska scores yet another wonderful role as the young maid Helen Dawes, who falls for the troubled handyman Joe Mackin (Aaron Johnson) while being 'courted' by Albert. But the film's scene stealer is Janet McTeer as Hubert Page, another woman who has donned man's clothing, and marriage, to get by in the male-dominated and, for many, impoverished Victorian times.

Albert Nobbs is a strange and enthralling movie about gender issues and the struggles of women. Albert longs for independence but has been trapped so long in her secret guise that she has almost lost the woman inside her. The film is well written, well directed and the design is exceptional. It is a movie that is both heartbreaking and enchanting, but at times quite comedic. The beach scene is particularly poignant, and over the end titles Sinead O'Connor sings a lovely ballad Lay Your Head Down written by Glenn Close.


Albert Nobbs will screen at the Star Court Theatre in Lismore this Sunday, February 12, at 5.30pm.

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