Based on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West in the years prior to Woolf’s acclaimed and controversial publication of Orlando, this is a film that should have offered a rich tapestry of literature and female sexuality. However, Vita and Virginia fails to fly, offering a film that plays to 1920’s cliches, with a script and artistic direction that delivers a confused final product.
Visually parts of Vita and Virginia are a delight, capturing the atmosphere of 1920’s Bermondsey beautifully. However, its script often feels like it’s torn from the pages of an Enid Blyton book, paying more of a homage to The Famous Five than the literary giants it aims to portray. Arterton and Debicki offer solid performances, but are never truly allowed to shine as the film jumps from scene to scene with little space for relationships to develop fully. Male and female characters feel one dimensional, leaving no space for audience reflection on the interface between hidden sexuality and marriages of convenience. Equally the films handling of sexuality and sexual liberation offers little analysis of 1920’s social constructs, or the wider 20’s society sitting outside the bubble of wealth and opulence.
The films soundtrack feels as though it’s been ripped from a 1980’s film, never matching the era on screen or the relationship in portrays; adding little emotion to scenes where music should increase audience emotion and attachment.
The end result is a film that feels disjointed, lacklustre and ultimately confused.
Vita and Virginia offers a confused exploration of female sexuality and relationships. While at times visually delightful it fails to deliver in direction, script and artistic vision.