In 1929 French Indochina, a French teenage girl embarks on a reckless and forbidden romance with a wealthy, older Chinese man, each knowing that knowledge of their affair will bring drastic consequences to each other.
Tony Leung Ka Fai,
In 1956, aspiring American poet Sylvia Plath meets fellow poet Edward Ted Hughes at Cambridge, where she is studying. Enthralled with the genius of his writing, Sylvia falls in love with him even before meeting him, and he quickly falls in love with her. They eventually marry. Sylvia quickly learns that others are also enthralled with her husband, for a combination of his good looks, charisma, fame and success. Sylvia lives in her husband's professional shadow as she tries to eke out her own writing career, which doesn't come as naturally to her as it does to Ted. She also suspects him of chronic infidelity. Both issues affect Sylvia's already fragile emotional state, she who once tried to commit suicide earlier in her life. Through her pain and her anger, she does gain minor success as a writer, with a completed semi-autobiographical novel and a few well received collection of poems. Following, she tries to regain some happiness in her life with Ted, but has an alternate plan if that... Written by
The first film in which real-life mother and daughter Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow play mother and daughter (Aurelia and Sylvia Plath) respectively. Danner and Paltrow previously starred together in _Cruel Doubt (1991) (TV)_, but not as mother and daughter. See more »
When Sylvia Plath is crying, towards the end of the film, she raises her hand to her face in one shot, but immediately following this both hands are in her lap. See more »
Sometimes I dream the tree, and the tree is my life. One branch is the man I shall marry, and the leaves my children. Another branch is my future as a writer, and each leaf is a poem. Another branch is a good academic career. But as I sit there trying to choose, the leaves bring to turn brown and blow away, until the tree is absolutely bare.
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I am pretty familiar with Plath's story, and am also a keen fan of her work, which i think contributed to my hesitancy in seeing the film. I did not have high hopes for this film at all, and honestly, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
My main criticisms:
I found it hard to get past the whole 'Oooh look it's Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath'. Someone who isn't famous on a global scale would have been more credible.
The whole premise of the film hinges on the deep passionate relationship of Plath and Hughes, yet I never really felt convinced by it. The relationship came across as quite two dimensional, and even pretty one sided on the part of Paltrow/Plath. Instead of being portrayed as an emotionally fragile woman driven to the edge by Hughes' constant philandering and ultimate betrayal, Plath actually seemed to come across as being deeply insecure and neurotic, constantly suffering from extreme PMT, and overreacting every time she saw Hughes even talking to another woman, rather than having genuine reason to suspect his infidelity.
There were a couple of key dramatic moments (such as after they have made love for the first time, and when they are out in the boat together) that felt very hammy, so disrupted the momentum of the piece.
The score is just awful. Totally totally overwrought, over the top, too loud and too much of it. Plus, as Paltrow/Plath really starts to lose her mind there is an almost constant sound of howling wind in the backgroud. Again, OTT. Less definitely would have been more.
Ok, I complained about Paltrow above, but she really did a great job. She really is a very talented actress, and it is a shame the whole celebrity thing gets in the way. She was particularly fine in the latter stages of the film, and the sad descent into loneliness and irreversible depression was very well judged.
Likewise, Daniel Craig was very enigmatic, although I wonder whether the one sidedness of the relationship as mentioned above may have come from him.
As a whole the film was very sympathetic, and showed how hard it must have been for Hughes to live with Plath. It doesn't justify his behaviour but rather tries to show an understanding. It also evokes a sense of a time when poets were considered important.
This film stayed with me for some days after watching it, and I would recommend it. It is somewhat uneven in pace and direction, but I think Christine Jeffs is a director with talent, although her inexperience showed. But above all, it renewed my interest in both Plath and Hughes.
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