Released: January 28 2004
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon, Jared Harris
Director: Christine Jeffs
Writer: John Brownlow
Genre: Drama
Rated: M
Running Time: 110 Minutess

A Passion Beyond Words.

Starring Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow, SYLVIA is a story of love, passion, wit and despair between two of the 20th century's most brilliant minds, the American poet Sylvia Plath and the British poet Ted Hughes. From their initial meeting they embarked on a tumultuous affair, igniting an epic and violently powerful love. SYLVIA takes us beyond the myth of a legendary writer, behind the romance, and behind the tragedy, to recreate the most devastating love story of our time.

Beginning with their courtship as students in Cambridge, the film follows the course of their marriage as it spirals into a vortex of bitterness, infidelity and even violence - a sequence of events which over the period of a few short months produced both the astonishing outpouring of poetic work which would make Plath famous, and the profound mental distress which would lead to her tragic and untimely death at the age of 30 by her own hand.

Featuring incredible performances by both Paltrow and Daniel Craig ("Road To Perdition"), SYLVIA is directed by New Zealander Christine Jeffs, who also helmed the critically acclaimed feature film "Rain".

My Verdict:
In the words of the writer of Sylvia, John Brownlow, "this is a movie not a documentary". This is a very significant point to remember when viewing Sylvia. John adds further, "those people up on the screen are actors saying words that somebody else wrote, moving about on a set.......I have no idea what Ted and Sylvia really said to each other". And so this is clearly not a definitive tale of Sylvia Plath but rather one possible insight into her tormented life.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a wonderful Sylvia. She has to display a range of emotions, not the least of which is that of a severely depressed woman trying to overcome her utter despair. The reasons for her mental state are not overtly clear although mention is made of a troubled relationship with her father and a previous suicide attempt. She finds temporary happiness when she initially meets Ted Hughes, but cannot quell her suspicions regarding his fidelity. She obsesses about Ted constantly, that he will leave her, which may or may not be the reason she did indeed gas herself in 1963. Gwyneth gives Sylvia grace and beauty and a tenacity to fight. It was not hard to believe that Gwyneth was indeed Sylvia.Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig), is not quite the soft-edged person that Sylvia appears to be. He finds his soulmate in Sylvia, yet can't stop his desire for other woman. Ted is also a gifted poet and as such is often erratic, moody and impossible to bear. Such it seems is a poets life! There are numerous poetry readings and ramblings in the movie which are in themselves an education. Blythe Danner as Sylvia's mother (and Gwyneth's too) is gorgeous, as is Michael Gambon, a neighbour of Sylvia's in her final months.

The movie focus is on the relationship between Sylvia and Ted and the relatively short time they had together. The movie takes us from England, to America and back again, with an emphasis on authenticity. It is not a pleasant movie, but certainly compelling and very intense. It is hard to leave without feeling that if you had never heard of Sylvia Plath before, you might just want to head to a bookstore or library and find some of her work to read yourself.

- Christina Bruce


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