A year after Nicole Kidman floated
away weighed down by her nose and some stones in her
pockets, another famous literary suicide comes to the screen. This
time it is Gwyneth Paltrow playing the poet Sylvia Plath who turned on the gas
in 1963 after carefully sealing up her children's bedroom. Sylvia
tells the story of Plath and her tempestuous marriage to another poet, Ted Hughes. The
film concentrates on their relationship and the action begins in Cambridge
on the day Plath meets Hughes. The story follows their relationship
from love at first sight, through their marriage, two kids, moving back and
forth across the Atlantic until the fateful day when Plath put her head in
Paltrow and Craig are excellent as Plath and Hughes. Paltrow doesn't need a large nose or any other serious makeup because she bears a close resemblance to Plath. She seems to have been around forever even though she is only 31 and is now tackling roles that should make her as well known for her acting as for her well-publicized personal life. Craig was unknown to me although he had a small part in Road to Perdition. The supporting cast are fairly minor in this film centered on two large personalities but they are good nevertherless. Blyth Danner, Paltrow's real-life mother, plays the same role here. It's nice to see her onscreen. She and her foggy voice made quite an impression on me as a young man. Jared Harris and Michael Gambon are both good as friends who try to help Paltrow. Gambon has been around a long time but is about to be thrust into the limelight as the new Dumbledore in next year's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
This film is not a happy one. It does a very good job of making the audience feel the weight of the world crushing Plath. I found it difficult to watch Plath slowly go off the deep end as she waits for her womanizing husband to come home. The director, Christine Jeffs, a newcomer from New Zealand, has photographed this movie beautifully, mostly in shades of grey that mirror Plath's emotions. Controversy has raged since 1963 about the role that Hughes played in causing Plath to kill herself. The woman he left Plath for also committed suicide. I'm not sure whether this film is a neutral view of Plath and Hughes, but it certainly portrays them both as humans subject to the frailties that we are known for. Sylvia does a good job of portraying two people who are very much in love but can't live together. It is beautiful but sad.