Last night a film titled ”Effie Gray” was broadcast on TV. Based on a real scandal that shocked Victorian England, the film tells the story of Euphemia “Effie” Gray, the woman who married the most influential art critic of the age, John Ruskin.
Just after the marriage, John takes young Effie away from her parents in Scotland and deposits her into his family home in London. The couple has to live with his parents who control everything, and the young woman is repeatedly denigrated by his over possessive mother. She feels isolated and unhappy in the repressive atmosphere of the Ruskin family. In addition, her husband shows no interest in consummating the marriage and refuses to discuss the subject.
Lonely and frustrated Effie, grows ill with neglect, losing her hair and retreating into inexpressible misery. Her doctor advises fresh air and more attention from her husband. Therefore she can spend some time in her native Scotland with her husband, and Millais, one of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Ruskin’s protégé, who is to paint his portrait. The painter supports Effie, and becomes increasingly disturbed by John’s indifferent attitude to her. The two fall in love but in a culture where divorce is forbidden, this presents a problem.
Effie finds a friend and champion in Lady Elizabeth Eastlake, the wife of the influential president of the Royal Academy and she finally gathers up the courage to defy the rules of Victorian society after five long years trapped in that loveless marriage. She is examined by a doctor, who confirms her virginity, therefore her lawyer is able to tell her the marriage can be annulled.
One day Effie leaves for Scotland, supposedly to accompany her young sister, who has come to keep her company but, in reality, to leave John forever. Before quitting London, she communicates with Everett via her sister and the painter promises he will wait for her.
In the last scene we see Ruskin’s family, horrified when Effie’s lawyer arrives with a notification of annulment proceedings on the grounds of John’s impotence.