Lust, jealousy, and revenge come cloaked in the guise of friendship in this psychological drama. Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is a history teacher at a high school in London; while elderly Barbara is very bright, she's also severe and domineering, with a strong personality that tends to put people off. Barbara also takes a voyeuristic delight in recording the actions of those around her in her diary in the most minute detail. When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a bright and attractive woman in her mid-thirties, is hired as the school's new art teacher, Barbara believes she may have found someone worthy of her friendship, though she's soon disappointed to discover that Sheba has a husband and two children, a lifestyle that she finds offensively bourgeois. However, Barbara's obsessive interest in Sheba is rewarded when the younger teacher confesses that one of her students, Steven (Andrew Simpson), has developed an obviously sexual interest in her. However, in fact, Steven's crush on Sheba is hardly one-sided, and in time Barbara discover that the two have been making love on a regular basis for months. When circumstances turn Barbara against Sheba, she uses what she knows about the affair to destroy the life of her "friend." Based on the novel by Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal also stars Bill Nighy.
~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide