Review: Notes on a Scandal

Lives can be broken with a few carefully placed words, and they are in the strange and thought-provoking 2007 English drama Notes on a Scandal adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber from the Zo Heller novel.

"Secrets are seductive," pottery teacher Bathsheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) tells colleague Barbara Covette (Judi Dench). Secrets add a dimension of excitement and intrigue to Sheba's mundane, meaningless family life until they become her undoing.

Sheba feels unfulfilled as the wife of an ordinary but loving husband and mother of an intense, grouchy teenage daughter and a son with Down Syndrome, so she seeks some kind of fulfillment as a pottery teacher at a tough London high school in which every doorway is flanked by metal detectors and teachers are chronically overwhelmed and undone by devious, criminally-minded adolescents.

In this world, secrets become the undoing of Hart, who makes the mistake of trusting two sexual predators--Barbara, her old and lonely lesbian colleague whose life revolves around her cat Portia, and Steven, a 15-year-old "tower of testosterone" for whom sexual conquest is merely a form of recreation. Although Steven means to keep his sex life with Sheba a game only, Barbara means business. She plays Hart by keeping her secret about the trysts with Steven in exchange for Sheba's attention. Barbara's long-range plan is to break down Sheba's world that the beautiful young woman might come running to her for protection and support. (more)