Nelly Ternan is a school teacher with a doting husband, George, who recognises the sadness in his wife's eyes. In flashback, she recalls her formative years as part of a family actors headed by her domineering mother, Frances. Mixing in these theatrical circles, Nelly encounters socially awkward writer Charles Dickens. His fascination with Nelly develops into something far deeper but she is forced to remain an invisible woman in Dickens's turbulent life for fear of tainting his reputation.
- Ralph Fiennes