Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Rated R. Our ratings: V-1 ; L-5 ; S/N-6 . Running time: 1 hour 31 min.

Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceit through the mouth.
They all speak friendly words to their neighbours,
but inwardly are planning to lay an ambush.
Jeremiah 9:8

The tragic story of two high school teachers, this is a far cry from Freedom Writers. Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) confides to her diary her attraction to new teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). Sheba, the new art teacher at St. George’s, seems at a loss as to how to handle her students. When Barbara takes her under her wing, Sheba is grateful, glad for a friend, but the desperately lonely older woman is seeking more than just friendship. Thus when she sees Sheba engaged in sex with forward male student Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), she reprimands her friend and tells her that she will not report her, but she must break off with the student and—-

Notes on a Scandal

It is interesting to reflect that Sheba is short for Bathsheba, and so the twist on the Biblical story is that Barbara wants to take on the role of David in Sheba’s life. Sheba is married and has children, one of whom is a Downs syndrome child requiring all the love and tenderness she can muster, but, unfulfilled by her somewhat older husband and family life, Sheba is hardly equipped for a lesbian relationship. The two actresses are so good that our sympathy is evoked for both of them, even though we cannot condone their actions. Barbara is terribly lonely, and Sheba is confused, torn by her free-spirited impulses and her sense of duty toward staid husband Richard (Bill Nighy), her love for her children—and her physical lust for the student. The somewhat macabre conclusion and touches of dark comedy might make you shudder that a monster with an insatiable desire is on the loose. Probably not a film for your typical church discussion group, it is a fascinating character study of the darker side of the human heart.