Albert Nobbs is an enigma. Albert is a woman (played by Glenn Close) who, since the age of 14, has dressed as a man to gain employment as a waiter/valet. It is late 1800’s Ireland and Albert has worked as a waiter at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin for several years. Albert has worked hard to save every penny with the ultimate dream of owning a business to eventually be able to finance a comfortable retirement.
The story focuses on Albert’s life and relationships within the hotel. The hotel mistress is Mrs Baker (by Pauline Collins) and the portly cook is Polly (by Brenda Fricker). These two women run the hotel upstairs and downstairs respectively and Albert (along with other service staff) tends to the needs of the guests as they come and go through the hotel.
Having had a life in service since 14 years old, Albert is work-experienced but not worldly wise. Relationships are a relatively unknown phenomenon and Albert is quite inept and innocent of life’s social intricacies. Through circumstance, Albert meets another cross-dresser at the hotel, Hubert Page (by Janet McTeer), who fascinates her and she is keen to discover Hubert’s reasoning for the life choice. Presently, Albert decides the time has come to make plans for the future, so sets about courting hotel maid Helen Dawes (by Mia Wasikowska). The development of the relationship, the people involved and the eventual outcome are the main thread of the story.
I found this movie totally fascinating. I wanted to learn all about Albert’s life motivations and to understand the reasons Albert made this life choice. This is all made clear as the story unfolds. There is no sexual undertone to the movie, it is primarily about life choices and motivations. The movie is not a happy one but it is made beautifully, cinematography is well done, period fashion and scenery is wholly complementary to the drama and there is very little music. Silence pervades many of the scenes, which adds to the deep emotions portrayed for the audience at the same time.
This is a marvellous movie – Glenn Close’s performance is outstanding.