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The Edge of Love
Time Out New York Project: Issue #703, March 19-25, 2009
Dir. John Maybury. 2008. N/R. 110mins. Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) comes off as a pint-swilling cipher in The Edge of Love, though it’s hard to work up much of a sweat over his diminution by screenwriter Sharman Macdonald. Her fictive Thomas is so nondescript—the fourth corner of a historically suspect WWII love quadrangle among Thomas, his wife Caitlin (Miller), nightclub singer Vera Phillips (Knightley) and her soldier husband William Killick (Murphy)—that it’s up to Knightley (Macdonald’s daughter, incidentally) to bear the expositional-cum-psychological brunt: “Dylan?” chirps Vera in the introductory sequence. “Dylan Thomas!”
That about sums up the levels of insight offered by the film: It’s all declarative surface, and director John Maybury treats the proceedings like Josef von Sternberg wet dream, at once elegant, campy and desiccated. Faces are polished to a holistic glow, see-through curtains act as diffusing scrims, and glass facades expand bodies and sets alike into kaleidoscopic infinity (much as they did in Maybury’s terrific Francis Bacon biopic, Love Is the Devil). There’s certainly pleasure to be had in such DP-dependent doodlings, though it’s difficult to say whether the incessant shadowplay of cinematographer Jonathan Freeman is finally seductive or repellent. I lean more toward the latter.—Keith Uhlich