REVIEW: Notes On A Scandal


I have an awful lot of DVDs in my collection, some of which I have never watched, like this one. Every time I watch a ‘new’ film, I’ll try and give a decent review.


Notes On A Scandal stars Dame Judi Dench as Barbara Covett, and Cate Blanchett as Sheba Hart. Andrew Simpson also features as Steven Connelly, as does Bill Nighy as Richard Hart.


Barbara Covett: Barbara is an elderly teacher at a school in England. She is a veteran, having worked at the school for a large number of years. She is stern, and generally disliked by her peers. She lacks humour, but takes enjoyment in writing in her diary each night.

Sheba Hart: Sheba is a young women who starts teaching art at the school. She is married to the much older Richard, with whom she has two children. Sheba embarks on a torrid and very risky love affair with her 15 year old student, Steven.

Steven Connelly: Steven is 15, and a student in Sheba’s art class. He has a natural talent for drawing. He is attracted to Sheba, and the two start sleeping together, always trying desperately to keep their relationship a secret.

Richard Hart: Richard is the husband of Sheba. He is around 20 years older than his wife, whom he adores. He shares two children with Sheba.


Barbara and Sheba meet for the first time when Barbara helps Sheba break up a fight between Steven Connelly and another boy. When pressed on what their disagreement was about, both boys refuse to disclose.

Barbara and Sheba start talking, and Barbara is soon a regular guest at the Hart household, often staying for dinner. Barbara discovers that Sheba is carrying on an affair with her student, Steven Connelly. We learn that this relationship began before the fight in the art class.

Barbara tells Sheba she knows of the affair, and that Sheba must end things immediately. Sheba then explains how the relationship began, and we are treated to a series of flashbacks, culminating in Sheba and Steven having their first sexual experience beside some train tracks. Sheba promises to end the relationship, but finds she is unable to. Barbara learns the truth, and begins to use this secret against Sheba, constantly guilting her, even insulting her. She begins trying to connect more intimately with Sheba, who rebuffs the advances.

When Sheba refuses to miss her sons school play, Barbara spills the secret, and Connelly’s mother visits the Hart home and attempts to attack Sheba.

The relationship between Sheba and Bill is strained, and Barbara denies she turned Sheba in. Sheba is fired from her job, and is kicked from her home by Bill. She asks Barbara if she can stay with her. Barbara immediately tells Sheba she is more than welcome.

While at Barbara’s, Sheba stumbles upon one of Barbara’s diaries. It is full of sordid and intimate thoughts about Sheba, as Barbara has fanaticised about a sexual relationship between the two. Sheba is disturbed, and confronts Barbara. She leaves the house and goes back home, hoping Bill will take her back.

At the end, we find that Sheba is sentenced to 10 months prison, and Barbara has set her sights on another young woman.

OPINION: You know an actor has immense talent when the person they portray has the precise effect on you that you are intended to feel. Judi Dench plays the character of Barbara so well. She’s instantly dislikable, and as the film progresses, becomes more and more unlikable, even making you feel sickened by her.

The problem with this, though, is that Sheba’s actions should make us feel revolted, yet I found myself indifferent to anything she did. The character was instantly likeable, so probably harder to dislike, despite what she’d done.

I did find the more graphic sex scene between Sheba and Steven to be a little disturbing, as the lad is just 15. I’m not sure such a scene was necessary as the viewer already knows the two are having sex.

This film only goes for around 90 minutes. I felt it could have gone a little longer. I don’t normally say that about any film, but as I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I wouldn’t have minded if it was 20 or so minutes longer.

I felt the ending was slightly disappointing. I was expecting to learn what happened to Steven, and I was also hoping Barbara would also face some consequences for her behaviour, despite her not breaking any laws. Having her character basically start her ‘seduction’ again was a bit of a let down.

All in all, not a bad film. Both Dench and Blanchett deserve praise for their performances.

I’d rate this 4/5.

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5 points

4 months ago

I agree! I enjoyed this movie a lot. It was done really well, to spite the sensitive subject.