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Sylvia (2003)

Life was too small to contain her…

Directed by:

Christine Jeffs

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is generally regarded as one of the finest literary talents of the 20th Century. She worked prolifically through the 50s and early 60s on a string of renowned books, including ‘Ariel’, ‘The Bell Jar’ and ‘The Colossus’, and has garnered even more critical acclaim since her death in 1963. If this dramatisation of her life is anything to go by, she was also mad as a sack of badgers.

The array of promo posters for this BBC-produced biopic show Plath, portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, smiling contentedly and even laughing – but a far more accurate depiction of the film would be a picture of her nuttily chucking a tray of plates against a wall. Happiness, you see, is the last thing this film is about – and it’s the last thing you’re likely to feel whilst watching it.

The main focus of the piece is her doomed marriage to Ted “Eddie Baby” Hughes (Daniel Craig), a man who was none to shabby with a pen himself. In fact, given their shared passion for iambic pentameter, you might think they’d make the perfect couple. Unfortunately, his bed-hopping and her afore-mentioned barmyness put a bit of a strain on the relationship.

This is a well-acted and well-made drama, but it’s not exactly the most interesting story ever told. It’s also made a bit ridiculous by the fact that Plath’s real-life family refused to allow the film-makers permission to use any of her work, leaving us with almost two hours of a movie about a famous poet in which we don’t get to hear as much as a line of her famous poetry. So, if you’re not familiar with Plath’s work and you don’t know why so many people like her, you won’t be any the wiser after watching this – and, if you ARE familiar with her work, you’re unlikely to find anything either new or insightful in it.

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It's Got: Michael Gambon in his pyjamas.

It Needs: To cheer up a bit! Just imagine how miserable she’d have been if her poems were rubbish.

DVD Extras A run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes thingy, and a trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Alternatives:

Pandaemonium

Summary

It’s hard to do poetic justice to the life of a literary great when you’re not allowed to use any poetry.

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