Albert Nobbs is a 2011 British-Irish drama film directed by Rodrigo García and starring Glenn Close. The screenplay, by Close, John Banville, and Gabriella Prekop, is based on a 1927 novella by George Moore.
The film received mixed reviews, but the performances by Glenn Close and Janet McTeer were praised; they were nominated for the Academy Award in the categories of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. They also received Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
The novella had been earlier adapted as a play titled The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs in which Close starred Off-Broadway in 1982 and for which she won an Obie Award for Best Actress.
Albert Nobbs is a butler at the Morrison Hotel in late-19th-century Dublin, Ireland; his boss is Mrs Baker. Although biologically female, Albert has spent the last 30 years living as a man. He has also been secretly saving money to buy a tobacconist shop to gain some measure of freedom and independence.
Recently unemployed Joe Mackins arrives at the hotel and cons his way into a boilerman job. He and a maid there, Helen Dawes, become lovers. Hubert Page, tasked with painting at the hotel, discovers Albert's secret. He reveals to Albert that he is keeping the same secret about himself, living as a man after escaping an abusive husband.
Albert visits Hubert at his home and meets Cathleen, Hubert's wife. Albert tells Hubert the story of his life: born illegitimate and then abandoned, Albert was adopted by a Mrs Nobbs and educated in a convent before being expelled after his mother died. One night, aged 14 and still living as a girl, Albert was brutally beaten by a group of men. After hearing there was a need for waiters, Albert bought a suit, was interviewed and hired, and began his life with a male identity.
Believing Helen may be the ideal wife to run a shop with, Albert asks her out on a date. She refuses, but Joe, believing that Albert will give Helen money that could help the pair emigrate to America, encourages her to lead Albert on. She agrees to this approach, allowing Albert to buy her gifts. Helen is uncomfortable with Albert and the arrangement that Joe has persuaded her to make. Albert also tells Helen about his plan to buy a shop.
Helen eventually discovers she is pregnant with Joe's child. Joe is terrified, fearing he will become like his abusive father. Meanwhile, Albert goes to Hubert's home one day and learns that Cathleen has died, leaving Hubert devastated. Albert and Hubert put on dresses made by Cathleen. Though both at first are extremely uncomfortable, they eventually spend a fun day together dressed as women. A stumble and fall by Albert on the beach brings them back to reality. The pair return to Hubert's, change back into their men's clothing, and go back to their lives as before.
Back at the hotel, Albert learns Helen is pregnant and offers to marry her. She refuses, saying Albert does not love her, though Albert voices a fear that Joe will leave by himself for America and not take her and the child. Later that evening, Joe and Helen get into a loud fight after Joe reveals he is indeed going to America alone. Albert attacks Joe when he gets physical with Helen, and Joe throws Albert against a wall, giving him a head injury. Albert retires to bed, forgotten in the commotion, bleeding from one ear. Helen angrily tells Joe she no longer wants to be with him anyway, and he leaves. Helen finds Albert dead in his bed the next morning.
Helen eventually gives birth to a son, Albert Joseph. Mrs Baker hires Hubert again to make improvements to the hotel. When Helen sees Hubert, she breaks down and reveals that she will be separated from her son and thrown out into the street. However, Hubert tells her, "We can't let that happen, can we?"