“ Genre: Drama / Suitable for 15 years and over / Theatrical Release: 2005 / Director: Christine Jeffs / Actors: David Birkin, Alison Bruce, Amira Casar, Daniel Craig, Blythe Danner ... / DVD released 26 July, 2004 at MGM Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL, Dolby Digital 2.0 „
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I don't know a great deal about Sylvia Plath. I knew she was a poet and wrote the famous novel 'The Bell Jar' but that was it. I had no idea how she lived her life and therefore when I saw this on Netflix after reading the description I decided it sounded like a film I would like to see. Of course with Gwyneth Paltrow taking the starring role this did also sway me a little thinking that I usually enjoy her films so therefore it was likely I would enjoy this one.
The film begins with a young girl riding her bike manicly through the streets of Cambridge. She is obviously in a rush and when she finally arrives at the university you can see she is relieved to see a friendly face. The girl is Sylvia Plath, A final year student. Her friend, Tom was selling magazines but upon seeing Sylvia he hides them away. We learn that the magazine contains a review of Sylvias work and whilst she is excited to see it, Tom is cautious. They have given her a poor review and he wants to spare her feelings.
In time, Sylvia meets the poetry students who are seen as the best at the university. She is immediately struck by one man, Ted. It appears he is quite taken aback by Sylvia too and they are soon spending all of their time together.
Soon the pair are at the end of their university studies. They understand that now is the time to grow up and become adults. They begin to look for work but whilst Ted is sought after in the poetry world, nobody is interested in Sylvias work. She eventually finds a job teaching but there is always a niggle in her mind telling her that her soon to be husband must be better and more talented than she is.
I was quite intrigued by Sylvia and her story from the very beginning of the film. It was clear to see how much Sylvia loved poetry and how liberated it made her feel. Therefore when she receives bad reviews I really do feel for her as it is hard enough being criticised for anything, let alone something that you feel so strongly about.
Sylvia was a sweet, good natured and down to earth girl. She cared a lot for her friends and family and it was clear to see that Ted took a place in her heart as soon as they met. I was really skeptical of Ted from the off. He seems to be quite bigheaded and whilst you can see that he obviously cares for Sylvia I did feel cautious because he seemed a bit of a lad and therefore I was worried he may hurry. Sylvia.
I enjoyed the film and found the plot interesting. As I didn't know anything about the real life Sylvia Plath I was unsure what was going to happen in the film but about halfway through I did develop an idea of what may happen but I wasn't sure. When the climax of the film arrived although I was half expecting it I was a little shocked.
The plot flowed well and I found that there was always plenty to go on to hold my attention. It wasn't an action packed movie but I felt that it told Sylvias story well and was interesting.
The acting in the film was absolutely superb and I thought both Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig did brilliantly at presenting Sylvia and Ted.
The film was released in 2003. It was directed by Christine Jeffs. It runs for 110 minutes.
I thought this was an interesting film. It was quite a difficult and tense watch at times but I believe that the film was very well done. Recommended.
Sylvia is the movie made adaptation of the life and loss of the acclaimed poet Sylvi Plath. Directed by Christine Jeffs, the film is a definate step forward from the last attempt at a film of her life, made a few decades ago. Gwenyth Paltrow plays the role of Sylvia, who meets Ted Hughes, another poet and falls rather quickly into a passionate love. However the main stumbling blocks to their relationship is whether or not they can overcome the change in Sylvia's attitude and actions due to her suffering with depression, also can Sylvia cope with living in the shadow of her husbands success with poetry. Ted Hughes received more praise for his poetry than Sylvia, whose first released book Collusus received less than favourable reviews.
As the marriage disintergrates, especially after the birth of their children, and move to the countyside Sylvia withdraws into herself, her depression peaking, and Ted spends more and more time in the city, to work on his writing and publications. However the marriage ends when Sylvia's jealousy tears her apart, especially upon the discovery of Ted's infidelity when away in London.
The film then moves onto to the brief period when Sylvia lived in London with her children, making accquataince with the kindly mand living below her, who sees Sylvia's distress yet finds it hard to ease her suffering. After one more night spent with Ted, Sylvia retreats to her flat, puts her children to bed and gases herself to death.
The film is an amazing dark portayal of the suffering of a young women, denied large success until after her death, married to a man she is forced to live in the shadow of and unable to seek appropriate help for her mental health problems. It is impossible to not see the reasons Sylvia is idiolised among many literary groups as well as fellow mental health sufferers, her poems point the way to the workings and problems of a depressive set of cognitions, her life conveys how it can affect relationshiops and her untimely death only emphasises the dreadful results of prolonged mental illness.
The only downside to the film is the fact that it misses what i feel to be important parts of her life, such as her stay in Mclean Hospital, and the story of her first overdose, although not documented in massive amounts it is briefly referred to.
* Blythe Danner
* Michael Gambon
* David Birkin
* Gwyneth Paltrow
* Daniel Craig
* Jared Harris
* Amira Casar
* Andrew Havill
* Sam Troughton
* Lucy Davenport
* Antony Strachan
This review is my own work, also posted on other sites.
When reading the TV Guide on a Saturday morning, we often see films advertised in there that we intend to watch during the week, but more often than not, we forget to watch it, turning it on halfway through and getting annoyed that we forgot! Sylvia was one such film, but my fiance was so keen to see it that he got me to hire it through our DVD rentals service.
Sylvia is based on the life of poet Sylvia Plath, who happened to be married to Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate and very successful poet. Sylvia meets Ted whilst they are at University in Cambridge, where they are both struggling to become published poets. The pair start a relationship, and soon Ted has won a prize for his poetry, leaving Sylvia still struggling to write. They decide to start a family, but things start going wrong when Sylvia begins to resent Ted's success, and struggles with being a mother and wife. Can Sylvia come out of her depression or will it all become too much?
To be honest, I wasn't expecting the film that I saw in any way, and by the end, I was suitably shocked and feeling a tad depressed when it was all over! I didn't really know anything about either Sylvia or Ted before watching this film, so the story was new to me and I didn't know what to expect of it at all. The film was set in the late 1950's and early 1960's, starting with their life at University. This part of the film was lovely and bright, and I felt that it started off very strongly, giving us a good introduction to both Sylvia and Ted.
These roles were taken on by well-established actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. Both did a very good job with their parts, especially Paltrow who played the depressed and downtrodden American Sylvia, really conveying to us the inner turmoil of the character which allowed the audience to sympathise with her situation very well. Paltrow really brings out all of Sylvia's emotions, and I felt she worked really well with Craig, who played Ted Hughes. Daniel Craig dons a strange black wig and northern accent to take on Ted's role, but he does so very well, making Ted a quite unlikeable character with ease. The chemistry between these two was great, and made for great viewing. When watching the characters of Sylvia and Ted, you couldn't help but feel they were terribly matched, with Sylvia's resentment of her husband's success and irrational jealousy, and Ted's arrogance and dreadful treatment of his wife each heightening the worst things of each other.
One thing I did notice was the lack of Sylvia's, or indeed Ted's poetry being read or even mentioned throughout the film. COnsidering the film is meant to be based on Sylvia's life, we don't seem to learn much of her background either, which after viewing can seem pretty vital to the whole storyline. It's a shame they didnt go into more detail of her childhood, and then of her poetry later on. Her books were briefly mentioned, but the only poetry of hers I remember being read through the film was right at the end, and Paltrow read it with such gusto I wish she had been given the chance to do more with it throughout.
Another thing which interested me during the film was the whole issue of depression and how it was perceived during that time period of the 1950's/60's. Clearly, it wasn't accepted as widely as it is today, and despite Sylvia trying to hide it, you could clearly see how it was affecting her, and it made me sad to think she had to go through that herself. It didn't help that her husband was an awful man whom I hated right from the start really, and it just goes to show that despite writing some beautiful words, he was a troubled character himself. It really brought home the differences in society between now and then, and it is tragic for Sylvia she was born into a world which couldn't help her quickly enough.
For me, it certainly wasn't the film that I had expected to see but it was definitely a moving and gripping watch. I couldn't help but feel that I was watching a destructive path which could only lead to one outcome which made me a bit apprehensive of watching it, but still I was hooked by it. Paltrow was enchanting as Sylvia, bringing her back to life on screen and really giving an amazing performance, and Craig was a good "baddie" too. I can't review this without mentioning the performances of Blythe Danner, who played Sylvia's mother, or Michael Gambon who fantastically played Sylvia's neighbour, both of whom were excellent in their small but pivotal roles. The beautiful scenery throughout starting at Cambridge, and going across America, the English countryside and finally a snow covered London in the winter, it was a beautiful film to watch, capturing the essence of the period with ease. A fantastic watch.
Director: Christine Jeffs. Written by John Brownlow. It was released in January 2004, and has a certificate of 15 in the UK for themes. The film runs for 110 minutes/1 hour 50 minutes. You can buy the DVD on Amazon for £4.98.
Daniel Craig ... Ted Hughes
Gwyneth Paltrow ... Sylvia Plath
Blythe Danner ... Aurelia Plath
Michael Gambon ... Professor Thomas
Jared Harris ... Al Alvarez
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Sylvia Plath is a woman who seems to have it all - a talent for poetry, good looks and a fantastic husband in the poet Ted Hughes. Unfortunately, her life has been dogged by severe depression, leading to suicide attempts on more than one occasion. Marriage to Ted helps with the situation for a while; at least until it is clear that his constant philandering do not help matters. After two children, the couple decide that enough is enough and Ted leaves to live with his mistress. Sylvia continues to hold out for the possibility that her marriage isn't over, and Ted certainly still loves his wife, but as Ted's mistress is pregnant, a reconciliation isn't on the cards. Sylvia's depression begins to take over her life once again.
I was very wary about watching this film, because I suffer from severe depression myself and, having read some of Sylvia Plath's work, can understand some, at least, of what she must have gone through. I wasn't sure that Gwyneth Paltrow would be able to portray the various layers of Plath's feelings; not that I have any particular doubts about her aptitude as an actress, but rather that it is incredibly difficult to portray someone suffering from depression on screen without making them seem annoying and selfish. I was actually very surprised to find that Paltrow was much better than I expected. I watched her on screen and was reminded very much of my own experiences - so much so that I found it painful to watch at times because of the flood of feelings that it brought with it. I liked the way that she dealt with Sylvia's feelings - she neither made her out to be a weirdo or a saint - but showed her in all her true colours. Watching it objectively, I think that a non-sufferer, provided that they were watching with an open mind, will have managed to take on board some of the pain and suffering that depression brings. For me, that is the sign of a good performance and I think Paltrow deserves to be commended for it.
I was less impressed by Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes. You may think that this is because I blame Hughes for Sylvia's predicament, but actually that is not the case. There is little doubt that Ted Hughes was a philanderer and royal tit of the first order and did not help Sylvia's situation, but Sylvia suffered from depression before she met him and I suspect that it would have come out whether he was a cheat or not. What I didn't like about Craig's performance was that I never once forgot that it was Daniel Craig acting. And his northern accent, although perhaps not technically wrong, just didn't seem natural, and I found it very off-putting. Had Hughes' role been meatier, Craig may have had more of a chance to redeem himself, but as it is, I wasn't that impressed. I did like the way that Hughes was not portrayed as a total monster, which is what many think of him, but I suspect that has more to do with the director and writer than Craig himself.
I am a great advocate of anything that educates the public about depression and there is no doubt that this film does at least attempt to do that. The problem with depression is that it is a silent illness, unlike other forms of mental illness that are more visually obvious, and it really is hard to educate anyone else about that darkness that some people suffer from. Bearing that in mind, I think that the director, Christine Jeffs, did a good job in promoting the condition without making it seem unnatural or too over-the-top. However, if you are strongly of the mentality that thinks depression is 'all in the mind' and it is just a matter of 'pulling yourself together', then you are unlikely to have your mind changed by this.
I think that there is an important social lesson to be learned from this film and Sylvia's life. Had she been born in a later generation, she may well have been able to cope with her illness. Unfortunately, at the time, it was accepted that a woman should marry, have children and play second fiddle to her husband. None of this helped Sylvia - she had high expectations of her own work, and seeing it shadowed by her husband's did not help. Nor did the fact that she was expected to have children, keep house and husband and still try to fit in time to write. And depression was something that wasn't talked about or treated - certainly there is nothing in the film to suggest that she sought medical help. Thankfully, things are very different today - that doesn't mean that people don't suffer from depression, but there are a great many more ways to manage it and I am living proof of that.
As so often happens with films that are based on someone's life, Sylvia is not the most exciting of films. It really does rely on Gwyneth Paltrow making us believe that she is suffering from depression. It is not, therefore, likely to please anyone who is after a bit of action or a light-hearted romance. It is very dark in tone and anyone watching needs to be prepared for that. I was quite surprised that there was not more mention of either Ted's or Sylvia's work during the film - the odd poem/piece of writing is narrated, but that is all. However, it is primarily a film about the damage that depression can do and so there was perhaps not a great need for more poetry.
I think that this film is a must for anyone who is interested in finding out more about Sylvia Plath as a woman and what made her tick. Also for anyone interested in depression and how it can affect people. If you are looking for a love story or something mindless to get lost in, this film is not for you. I personally really liked it, and it has encouraged me to find out more about Sylvia Plath and her short life. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 110 minutes
** SYLVIA **
Released in 2003 under the genre Biography/Drama,'Sylvia' chronicles the turbulent life of Poet Sylvia Plath, and her seven year marriage to her husband Ted Hughes Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.
The year is 1956 and the film opens with Sylvia talking about a dream she had. In the dream she had likened herself to a tree with branches outstretched. Each branch representing something about herself. One branch was her life, one branch, her husband, her children, and one branch, her glittering academic career. The leaves were her poems. As the dream closed the leaves had turned to brown and fluttered to the ground, and drifted away. This visceral dream seems to encapsulate Sylvia's state of mind in all it's complexities. -
Such was Sylvia's ( Gwyneth Paltrow) melancholic personality. She viewed life with a mournful eye. Her father had died when she was 9 and his death had a profound effect upon her. Anyone who has read her brilliant poem 'Daddy', will realise the strange and twisted feelings that Sylvia bore for her father. She likened him to a German Nazi, and the relationship with her father had a huge bearing on her life. Sylvia is American and had started to write poetry seriously, though it is not honed in any particular style as yet. We see her at Cambridge University, enjoying campus life and all it has to offer. She appears to be reasonably happy at this point of her life, and she tries to get her poetry published by small local magazines. In one of the magazines her work is slated. They call her poetry bourgeois and commercial. As she reads the magazine she spots a poem by a man called Ted Hughes entitled 'Fallgriefs girlfriend', and she is very taken with the words and the style of his poetry.
At a jazz evening in town she meets Ted (Daniel Craig) and it is an instant chemistry, a meeting of poetic minds, and they fall in love, and so begins the turbulent seven year relationship of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Ted sees a scar on Sylvia's face and he asks her where she got it from. She tells him that she had taken sleeping pills three years previously, and she crawled into a hole in the cellar of her family home, and waited to die. Such is her delicate state of being. Sylvia is a complex, fragile, and suicidal character, life and death occupying most of her thoughts. Her poetry is dark, and difficult to analyse. This film is not so much the story of the life of Sylvia Plath, but more a tale of the notorious marriage between the two poets. This was her driving force and her ultimate destruction. Henceforth the film shows the effects that her marriage, Ted's rising career, her children, and mundane domesticity have on her as a person and a poet. Set in the1950's when women were struggling to be taken seriously and to get their voices heard. -
The immediate thing that strikes me about this film is it's breathtaking cinematography, with beautiful shots of the Cambridge scenery, and University, punts along the river Cam, and stunning use of the close up. The striking colouring used within the film with it's use of subdued palettes of greens reds, browns, and blues, bring a true beauty to the proceedings. Everything visual about this film is shot with beauty, and this is what held my attention for the 149 minutes. The film runs at a snails pace, but at no time was I bored, or my mind wandering. I was just caught up in the story about what drove Sylvia to her ultimate suicide attempt. This isn't a spoiler, as historically this is a well known fact. If this film is correct in it's portrayal of the events between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, it seems apparent to me, that his treatment of the emotionally fragile state of Sylvia did nothing to enhance her confidence in personality, with his many torrid affairs, going on under her very nose. Sylvia's initial irrational jealousy and vivid imagination may have driven Ted into infidelity, or maybe it would have happened anyway.
Ted Hughes was an attractive charismatic straight talking man, and this drew women to him like moths to a flame, and with his career as a poet more prominently respected and recognised by society of the day, Sylvia must have felt like a lesser poet than to that of her counterpart. Ted Hughes was portrayed extremely well by Daniel Craig and I could totally empathise with the mental devastation that Sylvia must have gone through, stuck at home with two small children, suffering with writers block, being uninspired by her domestic confinement, whilst her husband was out bedding woman left right and centre, and all the time Sylvia's mental state becoming more and more unstable, and erratic. Both characters were flawed and complex, but I took from the portrayal of Hughes that his actions were the destroying force at work and not Plath's depression. Beautifully directed by Christine Jeffs, the direction showed sympathetically but without over sentimentality the decline of a woman hell bent on self destruction throughout her life. I liked the use of symphony music within the film and it seemed totally in keeping with the central theme of poetic work. It is due to the publishing of 'Birthday Letters' by Ted Hughes some thirty years after Sylvia's death, which details the turbulent relationship between Sylvia and Ted, and without this, this film may never have been made.
The films portrayal of events have been disowned by Plath's daughter, Frieda Hughes, calling it a monstrosity against her mothers name. But it answers a lot of questions for me if historically correct. I didn't like the poetry of Sylvia Plath at all, until I took an English Literature course and her work was a module. I was completely taken with her poem 'Cinderella', and thus began my fascination with this poet. I liked the film a lot, it went extremely quickly, but there again I was very interested in it's subject matter. It wasn't a huge box office draw, but Gwyneth Paltrow did receive an award for her portrayal of Sylvia Plath. Personally I would like to have seen Nicole Kidman in this role, after she gave such an amazing performance as Virginia Woolf in 'The Hours'. My one major disappointment with this film is that it didn't delve deep enough into the workings of the mind of one of the 20th century's major poetical literary influences. It barely touched on her poetry, and also the mythological fascination she holds as a woman, with scholars today.
It isn't just about her poetry, it's also her tortured soul, mind and being. Her fascination lies in the 'Whole package' of Sylvia Plath. This aspect should have been explored more, and more emphasis put upon this. What we got from this film, I felt, was a watered down version of the true woman. She had so many layers, so many dark corners, that I felt were not explored. Sylvia Plath was a complex, emotionally crippled, deeply haunted personality, and I would like to have seen this portrayed in a more in depth study of her character. She said of herself "I feel hollow. There is nothing behind the eyes". - I felt the force of the film was not what it should have been taken this should have been such an interesting character study. What 'Sylvia' the film actually was, was more a tale of 'the marriage'. I feel it might have fared better, and been more powerful a film, if it had focused more on Sylvia Plath, the woman, and Poet. Ironically, as with most poets, her true fame and iconic status was afforded her after her death. -
Running Time: 149 minutes
BBFC Rating: 15 years and over
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