Virginia Woolf is arguably one of the best writers of all time. A Room Of One’s Own, Mrs. Dalloway, and of course Orlando are all literary classics. The enigmatic genius was beset with all sorts of troubles, particularly mental illness, which had not been studied to the extent that it has now, leading unfortunately to Woolf’s suicide. Vita Sackville-West was an aristocratic novelist, journalist, and poet. She married a diplomat but had many dalliances with both men and women. Eventually, she set her sights on Virginia. Vita & Virginia is a beautiful dream-like documentation of their love for each other.
“…she has a reputation for leaving a trail of broken hearts all over England.”
Elizabeth Debicki plays Woolf in one of the more honest and heartfelt portrayals of the late literary legend. Gemma Arterton plays Vita in an extremely powerful, charismatic performance. The two have undeniable chemistry which illustrates the story of their love affair with grace and beauty. We meet Vita first and realize that she has a reputation for leaving a trail of broken hearts all over England. She sets her sights on Virginia and for a while, the love affair only exists through their letters. Eventually, it becomes a reality, with both Vita’s husband, Harold Nicholson (Rupert Penry-Jones), and Virginia’s husband, Leonard Woolf (Peter Ferdinando) only raising slight objections but never once commanding the women what to do. The only person who has quite a bit to say about the arrangement between Vita & Virginia is Vita’s mother, Lady Victoria Sackville, played to an aristocratic perfection by the legendary Isabella Rossellini.
Vita & Virginia captures the Bohemian style of the roaring ’20s with stunning accuracy. The attitudes, the costumes, the turns of phrase. The costume design by Lorna Marie Mugan is impeccable, in addition to Therese O’Leary’s set decoration, really transfer you to another world. Carlos De Carvalho’s dreamy cinematography and Isobel Waller-Bridge’s modern yet classic score round out the creative excellence that occurs in the film. Director Chanya Button had a great team which she led to a beautiful victory. The film is truly gorgeous and interesting for fans of literature. It reminds me of both Derek Jarman and Merchant & Ivory. My only concern is that this film caters to a certain niche of people, namely artists and intellectuals. While I’m fine with that, it might translate to fewer sales than yet another Jane Austen or Shakespeare adaptation, which is usually where this type of romantic and stylized work is found. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the slow delicious beauty of Vita & Virginia, and I hope you do too!