This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
I know a novel that begins: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." Now here is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen, "Albert Nobbs." It is sad because a woman has chosen to lead her life in a way that is fearful and unnatural to her and must live every moment in dread.
As you must know by now, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close in an Oscar-nominated turn) is not a man. She works as a butler and waiter in a 19th century Dublin hotel, where she dresses and passes as a man because a woman would not be hired for the job, and she needs the economic security. We can sympathize. But the pain she lives in isn't worth the money. Many people pass as members of the other sex for many reasons, but my impression is that for most of them, it answers a genuine emotional need.
Albert Nobbs isn't happy being a man. I don't believe she's ever happy at all. There is something stiff and genderless about her, and we suspect she has no sexual experience and desires none. Her entire life is focused on economic security, and she lives in terror of being exposed. Regard her body language: shy, repressed, reclusive, trying to fade in and become invisible.
The hotel is a Dublin crossroads for people of some means but no great distinction. It's run by the ebullient Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins), who sails a jolly ship but as an employer is no paragon. Employees come and go, and although Albert is considered by everyone an odd fellow, she's still there. Homosexuality is not unknown in this establishment; Viscount Yarrell (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) checks in with a free-drinking crew and specifies an adjoining room for his friend. But Albert Nobbs isn't a homosexual of any description; life would be simpler if she were.