The Edge of Love

Edge away slowly.

Released in 2008, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 17 Jun 2008 by Scott Morris
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The Edge Of Love might sound rather like a lost Duran Duran track, but it is in fact the latest off the production line of 'worthy' British dramas that hope to be the standard bearer for the oft promised, never delivered renaissance of British film-making. As such, it gets the red carpet treatment as the opening film of this years' Edinburgh Film Festival, so surely it'll be a heartbreaking work of extraordinary genius?

Ah, you don't remember how film festivals roll these days, do you? At any rate, what we have here is a tale of often strained relationships in the often strained times of World War Two. The poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) wanders around a bombed out London alternately capturing the bleak misery of it all and pumping out uplifting propaganda pieces for the Ministry of Truth, with his flighty wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) in tow. Into this steps Dylan's old childhood love Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley), now seemingly employed singing in bomb shelters lit in such a way that when accompanied by the Angelo Badalamenti score I was having flashbacks to the club scenes in Mulholland Drive and kept expecting a dwarf talking backwards to jump out at me.

Nothing so interesting is forthcoming, sadly. After a brief period of suspicion and mistrust, Caitlin and Vera become fast friends, and Vera catches the eye of dashing young Captain William Killick (Cillian Murphy). Despite some barely explicable stalling on Vera's part, seemingly born of the notion that there's little point falling in love what with the bombs likely to snatch that away in one boom-a-bang, she soon succumbs to the inevitable.

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Killick also soon succumbs to the inevitable, posted to the melting pots of the Greek frontline, while the rest of our gang return to Wales with Vera dropping Killick's sprog (as I believe the current polite way of putting it goes). He returns a different man, cold, distant and damaged, and at this point I believe there was supposed to be some dramatic interest delivered to the plot but it was held up in in a contraflow system somewhere on the M25 and never quite made it into the film.

Which is something of a pity, as it means that The Edge of Love drops down from the 'dull but worthy' category into the 'dull but, well, just dull actually' region, which is not where any film wants to be and not where any audience wants to see it. In this sense, it's roughly analogous to last year's festival favourite And When Did You Last See Your Father?, albeit without the small saving grace of having something approaching interesting performances from the lead characters.

If the thought of seeing Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley carrying a film hadn't already sent a sense of dread coursing through your veins beforehand then their performances here ought to fix that notion in you going forward, and while I like Cillian Murphy very much he has precious little to work with here and comes across somewhat hamfisted during the last ditch, last reel efforts to inject some character depth into the void of interest the film accidentally creates.

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It is, however, not entirely doom and gloom. Director John Maybury does at least cram some interesting visual shots into the piece, some of which are genuinely pretty. Some choices are mildly baffling, but on the whole the film gives the impression of a talented film-maker saddled with an unfortunate script and leading ladies of such banality that had they not had different hair colours would be essentially interchangeable. Although, I suppose Knightley's cringe-inducing attempt at a Welsh accent does stick out somewhat. In fact, scratch that first sentence of this paragraph. It is all doom and gloom.

There's a couple of really nasty issues with this film. The first, sadly, is the subject. Dylan Thomas, and I have no idea as to how based in reality this characterisation is and nor is it relevant to the purposes of anyone watching this film, comes across as someone who can only be described in words that cannot be repeated in civilised company. As such, one can only wish far more unhappiness upon him than he already appears to gather on his own, which makes it rather difficult to give much of a damn about him or, as it turns out, anyone who chooses to be around him. Which, when he's slap bang in the centre of the film... ah, I see you realise the problem.

The more pressing issue with the flick is that it's simply the dullest thing I seen in a good long while, seeming to run to about fifteen interest-free hours. There's simply nothing that can be done on this score, apart from completely rewriting the characters so that they are in some way, in any way, worthy of empathising with and perhaps recasting the leads. Preferably with actors from the places they're supposed to be from.

Also wins this year's award for most confusingly dissolved Vaseline smeared sex scene. Congratulations to all involved.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

John Maybury
Cast list:
Matthew Rhys (Dylan Thomas)
Sienna Miller (Caitlin MacNamara)
Keira Knightley (Vera Phillips)
Cillian Murphy (William Killick)