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The Edge of Love

United Kingdom 2008
Directed by
John Maybury
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2.5 stars

The Edge Of Love

Synopsis: In the London Blitz of 1940, sheltering in a tube station Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley) runs into her old childhood sweetheart, poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys). Soldier William Killick (Cillian Murphy) has his eye on Vera, while Thomas’s wife, Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is jealous of the apparent ongoing attachment between her husband and Vera. The foursome end up living together but when Killick returns from the war he is a stressed-out mess who threatens their not-so-happy bohemian life.

It’s hard to get a handle upon the main thrust of this film. It certainly is no enlightening revelation of the life of iconic Welsh poet DylanThomas, despite the endless voice-overs of his poetry being read. Nor is it a story of what brutal war experiences do to a soldier, although that features strongly in one segment where Killick fights in Greece. Perhaps the main thrust of this film is the unlikely friendship of these two women who both love one man, though why is anyone’s guess! The film almost flirts with the idea that at any minute a same-sex love affair could develop between the women, though the story never goes there. It also examines what makes a friendship at any one time – why and how it starts and why it ends.

In many ways this reminded me of Atonement, about which I also had reservations – the sort of film where style reigns supreme over substance. From the opening shot of a full face – full screen close-up Keira singing with a slash of the reddest of red lipstick I knew I was in for something aspiring to be “arty”. Many other shots made use of mirrored reflections, prismed lens work, multiple images of one person, sepia tones and so on – it all seemed gratuitous and distracting from the story at hand.

It seems the Second World War is never out of fashion with movie makers and a strength of this film is certainly its capturing of the era. With locations in London and Wales, all settings have a very authentic feel, costumes are good, and the episodes where Killick fights in Greece have the ring of battle verisimilitude.

The actors also give their parts their best shot, and Knightley shows that she is no slouch in the vocal department. Murphy is one of my favourite Irish actors (here playing a Welshman) and he is excellent as the soldier who goes from urbane and charming to traumatised, jealous and murderous. Miller shines as Caitlin, a most confused woman who seems to let all her self-esteem rest upon Thomas’s love for her and her ability to pull in other men at her beck and call. Rhys, the only true Welshman in the film and more a theatre man than film actor, is interesting as the rather unlikeable Thomas, and brings a broody almost malevolent presence to his character.

Unfortunately for me that old critical chestnut applied – I didn’t actually care much about the characters and they failed to touch any emotional chord with me. Perhaps a straight war story of friends (without a famous central character), or a conventionially-focussed biopic of Thomas would have worked better than this weakly-scripted mish-mash.




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