Albert Nobbs | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Albert Nobbs

Gentle drama about a 19th-century Irishwoman who lives life as a man

Mia Wasikowska and Glenn Close walk out together.
Mia Wasikowska and Glenn Close walk out together.

Unbeknownst to the staff at the Dublin hotel where he works, the professional, quiet waiter Mr. Nobbs is, in fact, a woman. In order to work in 19th-century Ireland, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) has lived in disguise and solitude for more than 30 years. 

Rodrigo Garcia's drama Albert Nobbs depicts a few months in Nobbs' life, as he plans for a life beyond the walls of the hotel. A chance encounter with a housepainter suggests Nobbs might have a chance at companionship, and after years of saving, Nobbs is ready to open a tobacco shop. But a relationship between a young hotel maid (Mia Wasikowska) and a new handyman (Aaron Johnson) threatens to complicate Nobbs' plans, and perhaps even expose his secret.

Adapted from a George Moore short story, Nobbs is an illuminating portrait: Nobbs' tragedy of being a woman trapped in a self-crushing lie is also the circumstance that gives her the power to survive, and perhaps even find fulfillment.

The ethereal, feminine Close — perhaps through force of sheer will — effects a remarkable transformation into Nobbs. (When Nobbs once dons a dress, Close conveys how awkward and exhilarating this "forbidden" act is.) While Close's understated and heartbreaking performance dominates the film, she is buttressed by a fine supporting cast that includes Janet McTeer, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Brenda Fricker.

Albert Nobbs is not showing in any theaters in the area.

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