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Affinity (Tim Fywell, UK, 120’, 2008)

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 prison, Millbank.

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 possible.

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.

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