Some actors can only convey emotion with a raised voice. Some can act with broad gestures in the face. But there is something special in Minnie Driver’s beautiful face that is missed because she does it so delicately.
She can act with her face by the slightest movement around her eyes and her mouth. It is one thing to act with one’s lips but even harder I think to convey an emotion with the slightest movement of the corners of the mouth. She has large, round eyes that can look vulnerable or heartbroken or disgusted or all at the same time. Minnie has a way of looking at other actors and seeming to see right through them (especially men). We can tell by the slightest gestures in her face what she is feeling and what she is thinking.
This makes her the perfect choice to play Rosina, a woman trapped in the society of the 1840s by the fact that she is a woman and a Jew. There are few options open to this woman. She is an intellectual but no avenue on which to use it.
Her father is murdered and in order to support her mother and her sister she takes a job as a governess to The Cavandishs a family living on an island in Scotland. Because they would never hire a Jew she studies new testament and tells the family that she is a Protestant named Mary Blackchurch.
The father is as much an intellectual as ‘Mary’ but his ignorant family falls a bit short of being interested in much of anything. Therefore he spends a lot of time working in his laboratory. He is interested in photography, a new invention and is working on a way to keep the images from fading. She becomes interested in his work. Their common interests draw them to one another. This is not a tired old story of marital infidelity but a story of an attraction that begins with a common bond.
There is an eroticism that exists between the two but there are boundaries that keep them apart. She uses posing for him as a way for him to see her and not just her job title. There is a lot of tension going on and Driver uses her expressive face to great advantage. We know that these two would-be lovers won’t cross the boundaries (they would be outcasts if they did) but we like to see them dance as close to it as they can.