- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

You might have heard “The Edge of Love” described as the Dylan Thomas biopic.

It’s not.

Yes, the Welsh poet is a central character and brought to life with a grounded, casual ease by Welsh actor Matthew Rhys.

The poet, as brilliant and iconic as he is, is not the film’s central concern, though. Director John Maybury is more interested in the tempestuous women he loved. Since they’re played by the achingly gorgeous Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley, two talents who showcase new skills here, it’s impossible for us not to be, too.

It’s 1940 London, but the sickly Thomas is unlikely to be called up to fight; he serves his country by selling his soul, as it were, to write propaganda films. He’s perched at a bar — as he so often is — when he runs into Vera Phillips (Miss Knightley). They were lovers as teenagers, and 10 years on seem ready to pick up where they left off.

That’s until Caitlin Thomas (Miss Miller) rolls into town. Vera is dumbstruck, but then it’s hard for any one, man or woman, not to stare. Caitlin’s a former dancer and the kind of girl who’ll bare her breasts doing a couple of cartwheels in a pub. Vera, meanwhile, sings in tube stations while bombs fall above. Rome might be burning, but these bright young things aren’t afraid to dance around the fire.

The two rivals, both free spirits, can’t help but admire each other. They form a fast friendship that survives every attempt by Dylan to bring Vera back into his bed. The uneasy threesome is finally torn apart by the arrival of William Killick (Cillian Murphy), a soldier whose love for Vera is utterly all-encompassing. The sensitive screenplay by Sharman Macdonald (Miss Knightley’s mother) gives him some of the best lines: “I’m not saying I’m the better man, but I’m not married, Vera. And you’ll admit that gives me the advantage.”

Dylan tells Caitlin that “all my words and every heartbeat” are for her, but he also tells Vera that “there’s no folks like home folks.” The one woman offers him very physical pleasures, but the other he idolizes as the representative of a lost childhood.

It’s all wonderful grist for the poet’s mill, of course, and we hear some of that glorious poetry, spoken by Mr. Rhys’ own singsong voice, which isn’t a bad substitute for the poet’s more famous one. Miss Knightley has a rather good one of her own, doing her own singing and sounding like a complete professional.

Miss Miller, moving with ease between the put-upon and putting-upon Caitlin’s highs and lows, proves she’s more than a pretty face. Both female leads look glorious in April Ferry’s inventive costumes that perfectly fit the personalities, while Angelo Badalamenti’s score takes us seamlessly back to the ‘40s.

The film loses a bit of momentum in the middle, when William finally returns from the gruesome horrors of the war to wonder what he’s been fighting for. The film then goes from a chamber drama to something larger; it doesn’t always work. The poetry and the performances always do, though, and they make the thoughtful and stylish “The Edge of Love” something more than just another British costume drama.

★★★

TITLE: “The Edge of Love”

RATING: Not rated (nudity, adult situations)

CREDITS: Directed by John Maybury. Written by Sharman Macdonald.

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

WEB SITE: capitolfilms.com/Film/Edge_Of_Love_The

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide