Zombie Strippers

Starring Sienna Miller, Keira Knightly and Cillian Murphy. Directed by John Maybury
Running Time: 106 mins
Rated: Rated M (war themes and violence, sexual references)
The edge of love can mean the sharp edge or it can mean being on the outer rim of love. Both meanings are relevant to this World War II memoir. With Dylan Thomas as a central character, one might expect it to be a portrait of the prolific Welsh poet who also wrote Under Milkwood. However, while he might be the pivotal character of the drama, he is not central. Rather, the two principal women in his life are centre screen, Vera his childhood friend and Caitlin, his wife.

John Maybury directed the portrait of artist, Francis Bacon, Love is the Devil. It was a wry portrait, Bacon himself not being particularly likeable despite his talent. Maybury is an artist himself. This is evident in some of the visual flourishes and swirling colours to indicate memories and moods. While Maybury loves Thomas's poetry and admires his talent, he communicates the unpleasant aspects of Dylan Thomas's character. The screenplay seems to have something of a set against the poet, so obnoxious does he seem at times - reinforced by the clever performance of Matthew Rhys, a blend of raffish charm with childish petulance.

Sienna Miller as the outgoing Caitlin, a mixture of wilfulness and moods, is very good indeed, somewhat overshadowing Keira Knightly as Vera. (The screenplay is by Knightly's mother, Sharman Macdonald.) Knightly can always get by on her pretty presence and this time she sings (quite strikingly) a number of songs, especially to people taking shelter in the London underground during blitzes.

Caitlin is quite a match for Dylan Thomas in zest and irresponsibility yet both seemed protective of the other despite their frequent infidelities. Being an artist was his excuse. Hers was her nature.

The fourth character in the group is William Killick (played with quite some intensity by Cillian Murphy) who is infatuated with Vera, marries her before going to war in Greece - shown with some graphic detail, an amputation intercutting the delivery of Vera's and William's child. Vera is lonely during the war even though she stays with Caitlin and Dylan in Wales. She and Caitlin are best friends but Dylan is flirtatious. When the damaged William returns, he is suspicious of Vera, alienated from his child and disgusted with the pub chatter of BBC writers (Dylan was one of them during the war) who had never experienced the horrors of battle. He takes a gun to them and finds himself in court. Vera supports him but Dylan acts in a mean and resentful manner. (Vera and William's marriage in fact was long-lasting.)

While there are excerpts from Thomas's poetry inserted into the film, The Edge of Love is not always very interesting although it perks up dramatically at the end with the return of William from war and his erratic behaviour and the trial. The whole film is a mood piece, a portrait of the women and a recreation of a period where the future and relationships were uncertain.

Hoyts Out August 14

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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