Sylvia Plath's daughter and literary executor, Frieda Hughes, not only refused to cooperate with the producers or allow them access to her mother's poetry, but also publicly denounced the project in a published poem of her own.
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 (1992), but not as mother and daughter.
Reviewing the movie for the BBC, poet Ian McMillan was particularly scathing about the scene where the young Plath and Hughes, boating down a river, recite Chaucer to a group of cows, calling it "A caricature of a poet's life". In fact, this incident is attested to in various biographies of Plath.
In January 2004, British newspaper The Guardian ran an article on the film by author Al Alvarez (played by Jared Harris). In his own words, Harris had visited him before filming started "to talk to me about it or, rather, to study me while we talked and check me out for mannerisms and tone of voice," and he had been allowed to visit the set at Shepperton studios. Alvarez was positive about Gwyneth Paltrow's performance and the recreation of 1950s Britain, but lukewarm about the film overall and offended by the way the script represented him: "the scriptwriter has me telling Ted that Sylvia has made a pass at me. Treachery posing as confession and gossip may be the lifeblood of soap opera, but in the real world friends don't behave like that".