Monday, August 30, 2010

The Edge of Love

Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: biopics / In category: 4 of 10 / Overall: 67 of 100

Whether John Maybury’s Dylan Thomas biopic ‘The Edge of Love’ even counts as a biopic in the traditional sense is something I’ll leave for discussion elsewhere. Focusing on Thomas (Matthew Rhys)’s life for just a short period of time during the war years, it backgrounds the famous poet and drinker quite considerably in favour of documenting the unlikely friendship that develops – and is ultimately compromised – between his wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and his old flame Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley).

It’s probably a blessing in disguise that Thomas’s part in the proceedings is less than central to the film since the fourth-billed Rhys turns in an indifferent performance that reduces the larger than life and unapologetically iconoclastic Thomas to some bastard hybrid of moist-eyed lapdog and naughty schoolboy.

What starts as a romantic triangle between Thomas, Caitlin and Vera becomes a rectangle with the entrance of Captain William Killick (Cillian Murphy), who becomes involved with Vera and is perforce drawn into Thomas’s orbit despite the immense differences between the two men. Murphy is as fine as ever, but his character is just as backgrounded as Thomas … at least until the based-on-fact but still cringeingly melodramatic finale in which, enraged by the taunts of Thomas and his arsey-versy intellectual friends, Killick sets out with a submachine and a grenade to teach them the reality of war.

The transition is jarringly abrupt: all of this after an hour and a half of prestigious, talky, worthy-but-dull filmmaking, wherein Knightley grimaces her way through an attempt at ’40s mannerisms (it says something that the usually bland Miller gives the film’s best performance), Maybury directs with an eye on self-consciously arty mise-en-scene and cinematographer Jonathan Freeman bathes everything in sepia to the point where ‘The Edge of Love’ comes across less as a movie than something preserved in aspic.

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