Everything promised to charm. I loved the perfected details of 1800s ireland (you’d never guess the tiny budget this movie worked with), woven with provincial accents. The director went for honesty with the simple plot direction. It never tried to fool, and I was enchanted by glenn close’s subtlety. She was vulnerably tremulous, then coolly impervious, and it melds into a very convincing albert nobbs. And i understood the oscar raves over janet mcteer’s hubert page. Her almost pungent masculinity was a ballast to albert’s ethereal blank slate. In that poised state, everything was charming and gay.
But the movie dug up more than that, and i’ll skip straight to the end. Because that’s how the movie worked for me, as it was for nobbs, the pack of cards coming down all at once.
In the final scenes, after a punch from the understandably upset joe, albert picks himself off the floor, dazed, his blue eyes still flickering comprehension. As he neatly exits the same dignified manner he enters– as he’d entered anything, i began bawling.
The single teardrop of deep red runs from his ear down his pasty white face. It seemed his last breath of pain let out after a long lonely climb. The why of nobbs, both his tragic past and stubborn hope, all seemed for naught.
And i felt for helen too, the precocious servant whose only sin was to fall in love and make a play for her dreams. Who was smart but not wise enough to avert the tragedy, quick and impatient but just a bit too slow to act. Her innocence tossed up for a bet that was never really firmed up.
The last half hour sees hubert page return, and we are him: bewildered, appalled, outraged, deeply saddened. Of course, the popcorn viewer in you wants at the very least for the greedy hotel owner exposed, but books– and life– do not usually cater to carthasis that way. As the white sheets flap around helen and hubert, an anonymous swaddling between them, i couldn’t help but feel sometimes the only resolution is hubert’s way. Picking up after the best you can, and fashioning a better one from the pieces.
Which was what nobbs had been trying to do. But sometimes you can’t blame the cause for the demise.
For someone who was no one, albert nobbs made me think plenty about the spaces and dreams within myself. It also made me sorrowful for the desperate wranglings we sometimes find ourselves in, holding up the last flag of dignity.