- Alternate Character Interpretation: Is Barbara a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds? Likewise is Steven an innocent victim manipulated by a disturbed woman or a sociopathic young man who manipulates a disturbed woman into satisfying his depraved lust?
- Award Snub: This film might have garnered Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett their second Oscars each had it not been for Helen Mirren's and Jennifer Hudson's excellent performances in their respective categories.
- Awesome Music: Phillip Glass did the score. 'Nuff said!
- Funny Moments: There's a lot of dark humour throughout the film but particularly this exchange:Sheba: We never invited you to the fucking Dordoigne.Barbara: You specifically said that if I happened to be in France I should drop in.Sheba: (Face-palm) We didn't mean it.Barbara: Well, all right, I won't come, then.
- Fridge Logic: If Barbara is indeed a lesbian, why didn't she just simply pursue a legitimate lesbian relationship instead of pursuing women who were somehow unavailable (not gay and/or in a relationship)? Of course, given what we've seen of how she acts in relationships, she would have ultimately ruined that too
- Plenty of people, gay, lesbian, straight or otherwise, find themselves lusting after the unobtainable. The heart wants what the heart wants.
- Barbara might not consider herself a lesbian.
- It makes more sense if you think about how old Barbara is supposed to be and the era in which she grew up/began her career. Back before being gay became socially acceptable, a lot of gays and lesbians (esp. those outside of the big cities where there bars and other known haunts) met up with partners in less conventional ways, such as identifying someone you thought might potentially be gay, striking up a friendship with them, and then slowly setting the stage for something to happen (probably after a lot of alcohol). Presumably, this is the sort of thing Barbara did for decades, and now that she could be out and proud, she just doesn't know how to go about more conventional dating. Of course, it doesn't help that she's psychotic.
- Jerkass Woobie: Sheba is a statutory rapist who took advantage of her own student, but it's still hard not to feel sorry for her when she breaks down at the end. Barbara also. For all the horrible things she does, she is clearly a very lonely woman desperate for friendship/companionship.
- Magnificent Bitch: Barbara could be considered Iago in a woman's body with her diary as Emilia. She's made even more magnificent by the fact that by the end of the movie she's evaded prison and found another prey!
- Memetic Badass: Benjamin! Sheba's son!
- Moment of Awesome: When Sheba finds Barbara's diary and the ensuing Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Nightmare Fuel: This movie is stuffed with it, from the increasingly creepy score, the various references to witchcraft, Barbara's disturbing lust for Sheba, the whole premise of the movie and the scene when Sheba, suffering a psychotic breakdown, paints her face and dresses as a prostitute. She looks disturbingly clown-like and still looks the same when she goes crazy and yells at Barbara before bursting out into the street screaming "HERE I AM!" Admittedly, this scene could double as dark comedy.
- One-Scene Wonder: Derbhle Crotty as Steven's mother when she confronts Sheba.(as she repeatedly slaps Sheba) Slut! Whore! Whore! How could you? How could you? He's a child! You perverted bitch! Bitch!
- Rewatch Bonus: The fight Steven has with a classmate near the beginning of the movie because he was angry about the lewd comments the boy was making about Sheba. After Sheba confesses to Barbara that the affair had already begun at that point, the viewer realizes that Steven didn't attack the boy to protect his teacher's honor, but his lady's.
- The Scrappy: Steven.
- Tearjerker: Sheba sadly telling Barbara that she liked her and would have been her friend and Barbara's equally sad response of "I need more than a friend". It's not clear whether she means this in a sexual/romantic sense, but she's still basically admitting that she'll probably never have a normal relationship of any kind because of her issues.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: Barbara. When all is said and done, she's a lonely woman desperate for companionship. Despite the horrible things she does, it's hard not to have some empathy for her.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Sheba betrays her loving family to carry on with her underage student, then had the nerve to blame Barbara when everything goes to hell.
- The Woobie: Sheba comes from an abusive mother, Barbara is a lonely spinster, most kids at the school have had a pretty hard life, Sheba's daughter Polly is an anorexic, her son has Down's Syndrome, and the only happy character in the film is Richard, whose wife has cheated on him with a fifteen-year-old. Oh. Dear.
YMMV / Notes on a Scandal