Opening 23 Jul 2009
Based on the life of British poet Dylan Thomas, this film begins with the bombing of London in 1940. Young Dylan (Matthew Rhys) avoids military service and hangs out with singer Vera Phillips (Keira Knightly). What appears to be the beginning of a love affair takes a different turn when Vera meets Dylan’s wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and their young son. She and Caitlin become friends, and all three move to cottages on the coast of Wales (near Dylan’s birthplace) to escape the miseries of war-torn London. By then Vera has married William Killick (Cillian Murphy), and they are expecting a child. Theirs becomes a long-distant partnership when William, a successful war hero, goes to fight behind enemy lines in Greece. He is quite the opposite of Dylan Thomas, who, besides being a pacifist, has no sense of money and is an incurable alcoholic. In 1945 William returns to his small family in Wales and picks a fight with Dylan – not just simple fisticuffs in the street either. He sieves Dylan’s house with machine gun bullets and threatens to pull the plug on a hand grenade. Luckily, no one is harmed.
The film is based on real people and real events, but is still just one perspective of Dylan’s short life. For example, were Vera and Caitlin ever intimate; were Dylan and Vera ever a couple (besides being childhood sweethearts in Wales)? Was William jealous or was he upset because Vera had spent all his money on the Thomas family or was he possibly suffering from post-war depression?
It’s amazing the way air raid sirens go off just at the right moment to move the storyline. It’s also amazingly strange to see actors smoke on screen nowadays, and these actors have developed smoking into an art. Knightly actually sings three of the songs as part of her performance as a night club singer. However, Sienna Miller steals the show as Caitlin. The film doesn’t present any of these characters as being especially likeable, but it might awaken an interest in both the works (poems, scripts, plays, etc.) of Dylan Thomas who died in 1953, just 39 years old, as well as in his entourage, enablers though they may be. Directed by John Maybury, the screenplay is by Sharman Macdonald, mother of Keira Knightly. David Thomas and Esther Killick, the adult children, receive writing credits. (Becky Tan)