Sylvia

Haunting, well-judged biopic of Plath and Hughes

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OPENS JANUARY 23, CERT 15, 108 MINS

Telling the love story of two of the last century’s most revered poets, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Christine Jeffs’ film avoids the pitfalls of most ‘literary’ cinema. It also refuses to kow-tow to the accepted line that Plath was an underrated genius, Hughes a bloated bully. While portraying her anguish and demonstrating the inherent sexism of the times, it keeps a cool, clear head. It uses picture-book scenery only sparingly. It’s a dark, unsettling, thoroughly convincing work.

Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Hughes (Daniel Craig) fall into a wordy but passionate love at Cambridge in the late ’50s. Over seven restless years, as Hughes’ star rises and Plath’s stutters, they enjoy/endure a fiery on-off marriage. Ted succumbs to temptation, but isn’t demonised here. Plath wrestles with jealousy, self-doubt and ultimately madness, before her tragic demise.

Paltrow is credible, mercurial and brittle as Plath, while Craig exudes elemental man as the “black marauder”. Paltrow’s mother, Blythe Danner, is exquisite as Plath’s mother. Very, very moving.

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