TIGLFF Movie Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister powerful, beautifully made


When Mariana at long last writes to Anne, she rushes to see her old lover, but feels betrayed when Mariana's husband surprises them and shows up, too. Anne and Mariana secretly promise to "marry" each other after Mariana's husband dies, but is unclear whether Mariana is strong enough to live up to her word.

The real-life Anne Lister was born in Halifax, England in 1791 and lived until 1840. An orphan, she inherited her uncle's money, home — Shibden Hall — and land in Yorkshire. Anne kept detailed diaries, surpassing 4 million words, which is said to comprise one of the most important journals in English literature. Much of the diary was written in code that vividly detailed her many love affairs with women, including her tragic heartbreak from Mariana Belcome. Helena Whitbread spent 25 years decoding the diaries, finally publishing them in 1988. Anne is now called Britain's first modern lesbian.

Even though Lister had to keep her orientation mostly a secret from society at large, she had relative freedom to do as she wished privately, ultimately living with her female lover. Lister was educated, well-traveled and sought to profit from the Industrial Revolution by sinking a coal mine on her property. She gained the capital for the endeavor from Anne Walker, who had inherited her family's fortune and land. The two women eventually became lovers and lived together in what was as close to a marriage as was possible at the time.


The film was originally aired on BBC, and the acting in the film is believable and passionate, with Maxine Peake starring as Miss Lister. Anyone who has been truly heartbroken before or has chased that elusive love can almost feel what Anne goes through. However, Anne is anything but weak, and her strength doesn't allow for a disappointing, stereotypical movie ending. The quality of the film definitely reaches beyond just the LGBT audience.

This film will be shown at the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin Street.

[caption id="attachment_107979" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Anne Lister leads her lover, Marianna Belcombe, off for an intimate moment in the woods together."]

Lovers Mariana Belcombe and Anne Lister have a quiet moment together

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister originally aired in May 2010 on the BBC. This beautiful story of a strong-willed, independent lesbian of 19th-century England who is unafraid to follow her heart is even more powerful because it is a true story. Anne Lister refuses to comply with expected proprieties. She loves the fairer sex, and only the fairer sex. and refuses to bow to social pressure. And her heart is broken by the love of her life, Mariana Belcombe, who marries a rich old man, despite promising Anne she still loves her.

Anne mourns bitterly at first, but then decides that she is a strong woman and must make something of herself. She devotes herself to education and, with the encouragement of her friend and former lover, Tib, tries to pursue an innocent young woman whom she met at church.

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