Notes on a Scandal (film)

Notes on a Scandal is a 2006 British psychological drama thriller directed by Richard Eyre and produced by Robert Fox and Scott Rudin. Adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name by Zoë Heller, the screenplay was written by Patrick Marber. The film stars Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett and centres on a lonely veteran teacher who uncovers a fellow teacher's illicit affair with an underage student.

Notes on a Scandal
Promotional movie poster
Directed byRichard Eyre
Screenplay byPatrick Marber
Based onNotes on a Scandal
by Zoë Heller
Produced byRobert Fox
Scott Rudin
CinematographyChris Menges
Edited byJohn Bloom
Antonia Van Drimmelen
Music byPhilip Glass
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • 25 December 2006 (2006-12-25)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$15 million
Box office$50.6 million

Notes on a Scandal received positive reviews from critics, with Dench and Blanchett's performances receiving widespread critical acclaim. The film also emerged as a major commercial success at the box-office, grossing $50.6 million worldwide.

Notes on a Scandal earned Dench and Blanchett nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively at various ceremonies including the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, the Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.



Barbara Covett is a history teacher at a comprehensive school in London. Having never married and nearing retirement, she has contempt for her students and fellow teachers. Her only comfort is her diary. When a new art teacher, Sheba Hart, joins the staff, Barbara is immediately attracted to her and they strike up a friendship. In Barbara, this friendship quickly turns into infatuation and obsession. Sheba is married to the much older Richard, and is just re-entering the work force after devoting herself to her special needs son.

Barbara later witnesses Sheba in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old student named Steven Connolly at the school. When Barbara confronts her, Sheba recounts all the details of her involvement with the boy, but asks Barbara not to tell the school administration until after Christmas, as she wants to be with her family. Barbara claims she has no intention of reporting her providing Sheba ends the relationship immediately, but Barbara secretly plans to use the affair as a means of manipulating Sheba. Over the Christmas break, Barbara visits her sister, who asks her about another young teacher Barbara befriended. Barbara stiffly says that the young teacher moved away. Barbara's sister asks if she has any other female "friends," strongly implying Barbara is a lesbian; Barbara insists she has no idea what her sister is talking about.

Sheba tells Steven that the affair is over, yet finds herself unable to stop seeing him. However, when she refuses to give in to Barbara's increasing demands on her time and attention, Barbara reveals the secret to a male teacher who has told her that he is attracted to Sheba. The teacher informs the student's parents and the school. After the affair becomes public, the head teacher accuses Barbara of knowing about the affair and not notifying the authorities. He also learns that a former teacher at the school, the young woman Barbara mentioned at Christmas, had taken out a restraining order against Barbara for stalking her and her fiancé. Both Sheba and Barbara are fired.

Sheba's husband asks her to move out of their home, so she moves into Barbara's house, unaware that Barbara is the reason she was found out and believing the affair became known because Steven confessed it to his mother. When Sheba discovers Barbara's diary and learns it was Barbara who leaked the story of the affair, she confronts Barbara and strikes her in anger. A row ensues, and Sheba runs outside to a crowd of reporters and photographers. When she becomes hemmed in by them, Barbara rescues her.

Sheba's emotions spent, she quietly tells Barbara that she had initiated the friendship with her because she liked her and that they could have been friends. Barbara says, "I need more than a friend." Sheba leaves Barbara, placing the journal on the table as a mute reminder that she had kept its contents secret, and returns to her husband. Sheba is subsequently sentenced to 10 months in prison; however, it is strongly implied she is reconciled with her family.

Later, Barbara meets another younger woman who is reading a newspaper article about the Sheba Hart affair. Barbara says she was acquainted with Sheba but says they hardly knew each other. Barbara introduces herself, invites the other woman to a concert, and the pair continue to talk.





Filming took place in August and September 2005. The film was shot mainly on location in the Parliament Hill, Gospel Oak and Camden Town areas of northwest London. The Arts and Media School, Islington was used a film location for many of the school scenes.[1]



Critical reaction


Notes on a Scandal opened to positive reviews, with Blanchett and Dench receiving widespread critical acclaim for their performances. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 87% based on 174 reviews, and an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus states, "In this sharp psychological thriller, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give fierce, memorable performances as two schoolteachers locked in a battle of wits."[2] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

The Guardian called the film a "delectable adaptation" with "tremendous acting from Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, with many blue-chip supporting contributions and a "screenwriting masterclass from Patrick Marber".[4] The Times praised the film, saying: "Notes on a Scandal, is screenwriting at its vicious best... Richard Eyre directs the film like a chamber play. He leans on Philip Glass's ever-present and insistent music like a crutch. But his natural gift for framing scenes is terrifically assured. A potent and evil pleasure."[5]

The performances of Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett garnered widespread critical acclaim, earning them Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

American publications also gave the film acclaim, with the Los Angeles Times describing the film as "Sexy, aspirational and post-politically correct, Notes on a Scandal could turn out to be the Fatal Attraction of the noughties."[6] The Washington Post noted the "dark brilliance" and that it "offers what is possibly the only intelligent account of such a disaster ever constructed, with a point of view that is somewhat gimlet-eyed and offered with absolutely no sentimentality whatsoever." The reviewer also identified the film as a "study in the anthropology of British liberal-left middle-class life."[7] Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper heaped praise on the film: "Perhaps the most impressive acting duo in any film of 2006. Dench and Blanchett are magnificent. Notes on a Scandal is whip-smart, sharp and grown up."[8]

However, the Houston Chronicle criticized the film as a melodrama, saying, "[d]ramatic overstatement saturates just about every piece of this production".[9]



Notes on a Scandal grossed $49,752,391 worldwide,[10] against a budget of $15 million.[11]



The original score for the movie was composed by Philip Glass. The film also features the songs "Funky Kingston" by Toots and the Maytals and "Dizzy" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Awards and nominations


79th Academy Awards:

60th BAFTA Awards:

10th British Independent Film Awards:

  • Nominated: Best British Independent Film
  • Won: Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film – Judi Dench
  • Nominated: Best Performance by a Supporting Actor or Actress in a British Independent Film – Cate Blanchett
  • Won: Best Screenplay – Patrick Marber

Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 2006:

13th Critics' Choice Awards:

Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards:

Evening Standard British Film Awards:

  • Won: Best Actress – Judi Dench

Florida Film Critics Circle Awards:

'64th Golden Globe Awards':

London Film Critics Circle Awards 2006:

Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards:

  • Won: Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett

Online Film Critics Awards:

  • Nominated: Best Actress – Judi Dench
  • Nominated: Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett
  • Nominated: Best Original Score – Philip Glass

Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards:

  • Won: Best Supporting Actress – Cate Blanchett

'13th Screen Actors Guild Awards':

Toronto Film Critics Association Awards:


  1. ^ "Islington Arts and Media School Star Among the Stars". Uk. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Notes on a Scandal (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 6 October 2021.  
  3. ^ "Notes on a Scandal". Metacritic.
  4. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2 February 2007). "Notes on a Scandal". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  5. ^ Christopher, James (1 February 2007). "Notes on a Scandal". The Times. UK. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  6. ^ "Notes on a Scandal (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  7. ^ Hunter, Stephen (27 December 2006). "'Scandal': A Lesson Not Soon Forgotten". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Critics: Who Doesn't Love a Good Scandal?". Fox Searchlight. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  9. ^ Biancolli, Amy (5 January 2007). "Gothic thriller full of sordid trysts". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  10. ^ "NOTES ON A SCANDAL (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  11. ^ Gritten, David (26 January 2007). "How to make a scandalously good movie". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 May 2015.