Notes on a Scandal (2006)

One Woman's Mistake Is Another's Opportunity...

Blu-ray, 1h 32min
Rating: 7.4
Votes: 75462
Languages: English, French
Director: Richard Eyre
Music: Philip Glass


A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her fifteen-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new "friend" also go well beyond a platonic friendship. -

Bitter, cynical, and lonely Barbara Covett (Dame Judi Dench) is a tough and conservative teacher, near to retirement, who is loathed by her colleagues and students. In the loneliness of her apartment, she spends her spare time writing in her journal, taking care of her old cat Portia, and missing her special friend Jennifer Dodd. When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins the high school as the new art teacher, Barbara dedicates her attention to the newcomer, writing sharp and unpleasant comments about her behavior and clothes. When Barbara helps Sheba in a difficult situation with two students, the grateful Sheba invites her to have lunch with her family. Sheba introduces her husband and former professor Richard Hart (Bill Nighy), who is about twenty years older than her; her rebellious teenager daughter Polly (Juno Temple); and her son Ben (Max Lewis), who has Down's Syndrome. Barbara becomes close to Sheba, but when she accidentally discovers that Sheba is having an affair with fifteen-year-old student Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), Barbara sees the chance to manipulate and get closer to Sheba, hiding the secret from the school headmaster. When Portia dies and Sheba does not stay with Barbara in the veterinary office to see Ben in a theater play, Barbara plots a Machiavellian revenge against Sheba, creating a scandal and consequent turmoil in their lives. - Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Barbara Covett (Dame Judi Dench) teaches history in an inner-city high school in London. She has contempt for most people in her life, including most of her colleagues and her students. She believes they, in turn, see her as what she calls "the battle-ax", someone who they don't much like, but at least respect, especially as an authority figure. She leads a solitary life, her confidantes being her cat Portia and her diary, to which she confesses all. She is keeping what she believes is a secret about her life. Close to retirement, Barbara is re-energized when Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) is hired as the school's new art teacher, Sheba, who has only recently returned to the workforce. Sheba is in many ways the antithesis of Barbara: relatively young, pretty, popular with the students and her colleagues, but not being able to instill any discipline amongst her students. On the surface, Sheba has a happy life, which includes an older husband, and two children, her youngest, Ben (Max Lewis), who has Down's Syndrome. But underlying the surface, Sheba feels unfulfilled, which is fostered in part by an uncaring mother. Unbeknownst to Sheba, or anyone else, Barbara has chosen her as her current focus of life. Their relationship, which is initially cordial, changes when Barbara catches Sheba in an illegal indiscretion. Again unbeknownst to Sheba, Barbara decides to use this information to get out of Sheba what she ultimately wants in life. - Huggo

Barbara Covett (Dame Judi Dench) is a lonely and bitter teacher at a high school, nearing retirement. She spends her time writing up a diary and caring for an elderly cat. When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins the faculty, Barbara is interested in the young woman. Barbara befriends her, and Sheba invites Barbara to lunch with the family. Barbara writes up scornful remarks about the husband, and is particularly caustic about their son, Ben (Max Lewis), who has Down's Syndrome. The drama begins when Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with fifteen-year-old student, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson). Barbara sees that she can coerce and influence Sheba. She demands that Sheba break it off. When Sheba fails to, Barbara strikes out, disclosing the affair to other faculty. The school acts, and Sheba is let go. Barbara is also fired for not disclosing the business to officials. However, we learn that there has been a history. Barbara has stalked a previous teacher, and the school is glad to get rid of her. In the spiralling crisis of Sheba's life, she is forced to move out of her house. Sheba is then manipulated into living with Barbara. However, it becomes clear that the older woman wants a romantic partner; Sheba reacts to this angrily. - Norris

Barbara Covett (Dame Judi Dench) is a veteran and cynical schoolteacher who is close to retirement. She is barely tolerated by her less brilliant and acerbic colleagues who know nothing about her private life, which consists mainly of taking care of Portia, her aging cat, and spending countless hours alone. The only means she has found to take the edge off her desperate loneliness is writing in her journal. When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a younger, attractive woman, joins the faculty as an art teacher, Barbara watches her from afar, and has nothing but caustic things to say in her diary about her clothing and her carefree manner. Despite her disdain for this woman, Barbara finds herself reaching out to her. Sheba responds by inviting her to dinner at her house to meet Sheba's lecturer husband, Richard (Bill Nighy), who is twenty years her senior, and their two children, Polly (Juno Temple), a sexy and rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter; and younger son, Ben (Max Lewis), with Down's Syndrome. Instead of opening herself up to these people, Barbara immediately sees them as competition to be beaten in the battle for Sheba's attention. Later, when Barbara discovers her new friend in a classroom having sex with Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), a fifteen-year-old from the school who has artistic talent, she realizes that knowledge of this secret gives her power over Sheba which she can use for her own purposes. Barbara promises to not tell anyone, but insists that the affair must end immediately. Sheba says she will, but finds herself drawn back to the boy again and again. Sheba seems uneasy with Barbara's friendship and is appalled when she discovers the older woman might have a sexual interest in her. The tenuous relationship between the two women reaches a crisis point when Barbara's cat is dying and she asks Sheba to go with her to the vet. She chooses to go with her family to see their son in a play instead. In revenge, Barbara sets in motion the scandal that will rock both of their lives in ways they never imagined. - alfiehitchie