The Edge of Love

A Knightley Tale of Love

         
 

20 March 2009| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Taking place during the bombing raids of London of 1940-41, The Edge of Love centers on the complex relationships between two couples who drink, frolic and dance around the clock. Supposedly it is based on the true story of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas during his young days yet the focus is not on his character. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, reading his poetry in voiceover, envelops the role as a selfish philandering romantic who manages to border an argument in favor of infidelity in his verses. But since the film stars Keira Knightley then every dramatic development must pivot on her actions.

When a film stars Keira Knightley you want the film to be entirely about her anyway regardless of story economy. Directors in the movie biz love working with her in their films because she is a classic beauty, a throwback to bygone eras. One imagines make-up artists love working with her even more. Look at Knightley’s past roles and consider what supple and pliant facial features she possesses that allows make-up artists to go to heaven.

She was prettied to look positively aristocratic in “Atonement,” she looked equally sublime and pampered in the 19th century set “Pride & Prejudice” and just as so as 18th century royalty in “The Duchess,” she was a blushing bride in contemporary England in “Love Actually,” she was a tomboy soccer player in “Bend It Like Beckham,” she was a swashbuckling heroine both pretty and greased up in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, and she got her punk on in “Domino.” In “The Edge of Love,” make-up and hair artists Joe Hopker, Catherine Davies and Lizzi Lawson are the lucky three who get to transform Knightley into a dazzling nightclub singer highlighted by ruby red lipstick, hair-pin twists and midnight blue eye shadow.

Obviously beautiful, it’s hard to resist Knightley in a period piece love story and it’s harder for a director like John Maybury (“The Jacket”) to not take the advantage, in a hip-side angle, of discreetly showing her breasts in a tender bedroom scene. But “The Edge of Love” overall is a multi-spanning year saga that is more stagnant than sweeping. Knightley, as diva Vera Philips, still running coast since childhood with her poet friend Dylan Thomas whom is married to free-spirit and potentially manic depressive Caitlin Thomas (Sienna Miller). There are hints at exploring a ménage a trois until a dashing soldier named William Killick (Cillian Murphy) comes after Vera with romantic determination to at first bed her and then marry her. Bliss for William, not so much for Dylan.

It doesn’t help that Matthew Rhys, as poet Dylan, has the least aptitude as an actor than the rest of the cast. More square than threatening, you never quite believe that he has the magnetism to seduce Vera while William is away at war. More troubling is that “The Edge of Love” is one of these movies that makes you wonder why the filmmakers were drawn to the story in the first place because you can’t quite figure out what it’s about the first hour. The London Blitz is mere scene decoration making bombing victims a background nuisance if anything. The tip-off answer to this confused film is that Maybury is more consumed in setting up beautiful but self-conscious shots, in art direction and costumes, in outdoor nightfall and interior nightclubs, bombing debris and cigarette smoke, and other kinds of photographic appeal, than to actually using his attention to construct story momentum.

The second hour is created with more purpose. Although the film absurdly intercuts Vera giving horrific childbirth while her new husband William is away witnessing horrific war combat (as if the juxtaposition of the two are equal), the rising development sets up tension and friction once the couple does reunite. Traumatized from battle, spiritually drained William returns with no warmth or compassion for his wife and newborn.  Crossed in rivalry, William suspects Dylan had fooled around with his wife in his absence. What we have our two couples, closely interlocked, living as neighbors on the countryside following the war with Knightley as the intermediary between two competitive men. At last, Maybury drops the fancy camera angles because the countryside is fair and photogenic enough on its own.

110 Minutes. Rated R.

ROMANTIC DRAMA / PERIOD DRAMA / SUNDAY NIGHT CUDDLE MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Cold Mountain” (2003); “A Very Long Engagement” (2004, France); “Asylum” (2005, Great Britain); “Atonement” (2007).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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