Despite being based on a novella originally written in 1918, the story of Albert Nobbs remains incredibly relevant. Set in 19th century Dublin, Ireland, the 2012 movie adaptation tells the story of a man who was assigned female at birth but has been living a life of hiding as a man for thirty years in order to make a living and survive. Nobbs (played by Oscar winner Glenn Close) leads an unhappy life. He doesn’t seem content living and working as a man and lives a life of loneliness and isolation, but from the stories he tells, his childhood was unhappy as well, as he was born out of wedlock and cast onto the streets as an illegitimate child, raised by a woman who couldn’t give him any answers. He is frugal, saving every cent he earns working as a servant in a fairly well-off hotel. He is well-liked by his co-workers and the hotel’s visitors, but Nobbs is reserved and quiet.
The film follows Nobbs story as he makes a friend in Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), who was also assigned female at birth but now identifies as a man. Page had been in an abusive relationship but found love with his wife Cathleen. Page serves as almost a mentor to Nobbs, someone he could relate to and confide in. Once feeling so alone, Nobbs jumps at the chance to get some answers that could help him as he questioned his own identity. Nobbs begins to realize and pursue his dreams- both of owning a tobacco shop and of finding love. He imagines the day when he will have a wife, much like Page himself, that helps him run his storefront. Both his dreams are contingent and intertwined with each other, one cannot exist without the other.
The movie is unique in the way that is doesn’t really label anyone at all and Nobbs is portrayed as fairly genderless. Nobbs lacks a sense of sexuality. He thinks he loves Helen only because he can picture working with her. The words gay and transgender are never used in the film. The friendship between Page and Nobbs is refreshing because each takes the other for who they are, instead of by labels or ideology.
Close does a magnificent job portraying Nobbs. There is something stiff and genderless about the character, and it can be inferred that Nobbs has very little sexual experience. There is a naivety about him, despite his entire life being focused on economic security and protecting his secret. Close makes Albert very real and never slips up or breaks reality. It was a part she was very familiar with as she starred in an off-Broadway production of a play based on the same original short story. Since little is known about the original writing or author, George Moore, there is a good chance Albert Nobb’s character may have had some real influences from Moore’s life, but is mainly a fictional character and Close was able to bring life to that.
It was a rather heartbreaking film, considering the circumstances Nobbs chose for himself didn’t allow for much happiness. He was repressed, isolated and had a traumatizing childhood. But it certainly brought perspective and was an intriguing story that I would definitely recommend.
Beth Radcliffe, a junior and student staff member at The Rainbow Center says, “It’s important that the videos and movies we show represent the historical perspective on the LGBTQ community. The parallels between our struggles today and theirs are very relevant. We try to show intersectionality and diverse movies, which is something we did here tonight.” The next film presented by The Rainbow Cinema will be “Better Than Chocolate”, on Tuesday Feb. 21.
Julia Mancini is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.