Directed by Tim Fywell
and adapted by Andrew Davies from the Sarah Waters novel of
the same name, Affinity is a
beautifully shot costume drama set in Victorian England. Like Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, it has a lesbian romance at
the heart of a tale that explores the underside of "proper" society.
With a gloomy prison setting and a host of supernatural undertones, the movie
carries a darker tone and creepier setting than the previous two works, but is
consistent with the mood of the novel it is based on.
The film centers on
Margaret (Anna Madeley), a wealthy young woman suffering from depression after
the death of her father and the rejection of her best friend — and former lover
— who’s gone and married her brother. Searching for a new way to get through
her days, she signs up to become a "lady visitor" at a bleak women’s
A mysterious girl named Selina
(Zoe Tapper) soon catches her eye. Selina claims to be a spirit medium — a
person who channels spirits and the souls of the dead. She’s also serving a
long sentence after being convicted for murder, but she claims the murder was
the work of one particularly strong and malicious spirit called Peter Quick.
At first, Margaret
doesn’t know what to think about Selina’s mystical leanings, but after a few
close encounters of her own (including a physical "manifestation"
that’s impossible to ignore), she begins to believe. After an initial curiosity
and attraction, their relationship builds slowly through Margaret’s many visits,
and her reservations begin to melt away. She becomes obsessed with her
mysterious friend, and the pair begins to bristle under the watchful eyes of
the prison guards, particularly the head matron, who suspects that the two
women are "sweet on" each other.
Outside of Millbank,
Margaret falls deeper and deeper under Selina’s spell and begins to investigate
Selina’s murky history. Her family and friends tolerate her bizarre new interests
to a point, but everyone would prefer that she marry and settle down as soon as
Margaret, of course, has
other plans — involving Selina and the supernatural. In many ways, Margaret is
as much a prisoner in her own life, dictated by gender rules and societal expectations,
as Selina is in her physical cell.