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Parents' Guide to

Notes on a Scandal

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Dark tale of betrayal and fixation isn't for kids.

Movie R 2006 91 minutes
Notes on a Scandal Poster Image

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The film's great trick is that no matter how badly Barbara behaves -- and she does connive with some venom -- she remains "sympathetic" in the sense that she's utterly compelling. (This is, of course, primarily a function of Dench's strong performance.) She's also strangely endearing and quite blind to herself. The film's finale is both harsh and broadly melodramatic, and so fits Barbara's idea of herself -- deflated perhaps, but never defeated.

As the school year starts, Barbara glowers from a second-floor window, deeming the yard full of students to be "the local pubescent proles, the future lumbers and shop assistants and doubtless the odd terrorist too." Accompanied by Philip Glass' score, Dench is delightfully forbidding here, her demeanor unchanged as the camera picks out Sheba bicycling among the uniformed students, with little sign of the complications that are about to ensue. Sheba is so self-absorbed that she doesn't notice Barbara's needs until the older woman demands not only that Sheba give up the boy, but also, eventually, her family. Barbara's own observations are both prickly and entertaining; they reveal her own inclinations even when she thinks she's maintaining her distance.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: December 25, 2006
  • On DVD or streaming: April 17, 2007
  • Cast: Bill Nighy , Cate Blanchett , Judi Dench
  • Director: Richard Eyre
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: Fox Searchlight
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 91 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language and some aberrant sexual content.
  • Last updated: January 2, 2023

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