Notes On A Scandal shines an unblinking and often bitterly tainted spotlight into what makes people tick, how they interact with one another and what a slap in the face it can be when you see what they really think and feel, independent of how they may carry themselves in public. Judi Dench is acid personified as an older woman and veteran teacher at a local high school, who’s ranks have recently been joined by a younger art instructor (Cate Blanchett). Dench is jaded, her only friend being her cat Portia, and has an insidious habit of keep a diary in which she writes down prickly little barbs about everyone and everything around her, often cruel and judgmental in nature. She takes a shine to Blanchett, who is married to a much older and renowned man (the excellent Bill Nighy) and has every vibrant thing in life that Dench is bereft of, left with the vacuum of her own empty existence. She envies, aspires to and resents Blanchett’s existence, and pours a malicious cocktail of verbal attacks into her journal, safe in the knowledge that it’s just as personal and private as her own thoughts, and that she’ll never be found out. Or will she? I’ve lived long enough to know that secrets you try to hide have a way of working their way to the surface, becoming known and hurting those you love or try to connect to. Speaking of secrets, things get incredibly complicated when Blanchett gets caught up in a torrid affair with a teenage boy she teaches, lured in by lust’s song and deaf to consequence, which is something that befalls us all more than we’d care to admit. Dench thinks she can use her knowledge of the affair as leverage to get what she wants, which she may not even be sure of at all, beyond it obsessively involving Blanchett. The two of them are dynamite as two sides of the many faced coin of ambiguity. The human behavior in this film somewhat defies the usual story structure and parameters of character we are used to in film. Decisions are arbitrary, ugliness is exposed, people are contradictory and confused in a way that leaves them stranded without beats to fall back on with their work. High praise is deserved to a piece this honest and willing to explore these places.