First Hit: Lusciously shot, well acted, this film powerfully points at how women were treated as less than equals of men in the past and also the strength and power of being a mother.
Keira Knightley plays Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, elegantly and powerfully. Ralph Fiennes plays the Duke of Devonshire as disengaged from his feelings, powerfully respected because of his position, and driven to reproduce an heir as is required in an aristocracy.
The opening shot has the Duke negotiating with Georgiana’s mother to marry the beautiful beguiling 17 year old girl. Upon hearing of the arrangement Georgiana is excited and happy as it is quite an honor. But the wedding night proves how detached The Duke is. He simply wants an heir. Ralph gives small hints of his caring about his wife, but his actions are in line with his duty, produce a male heir.
In an early scene there is a telling statement about the difference between the sexes; The Duke wonders, out loud, about why woman wear such complicated clothing.
The Duchess responds with it is the only way they can express themselves. Women are limited in their societal roles. She continues by saying, men have lots of ways to express themselves but women are limited to what they wear and how they wear it.
This film, once again, shows that Keira Knightly is a wonderful young actress. She holds the screen and the story while showing a wide range of youth, strength, and sorrow through this performance. Ralph Fiennes is great as a deeply controlled, bound by duty, man who would like to break out just a little but knows he cannot. The direction by Saul Dibb kept the film close to the true story of this powerful popular woman who reminded me of Princess Diana.
Overall: I am not always a big fan of costume dramas, but this one is interesting and extremely well acted.