The Edge of Love
My unabashed love for Keira Knightley aside, I find that she has a remarkable way about her when it comes to playing a woman in love. She portrays her love-stricken characters with a subtlety that clearly reveals to the audience her feelings for her lover without making it cheesy or over the top. So a film like THE EDGE OF LOVE, in which she has to play both the woman in love and the woman longing for love, would seem like a perfect match of script and actress. Of course, the reality is seldom able to live up to the promise.
The script, written by Keira Knightley’s mother (Sharman Macdonald) tells the story of Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) and the two women in his life that inspired most of his poetry; his wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and his childhood sweetheart Vera Phillips (Knightley). During WWII, Dylan returns to London where he meets Vera, who is now singing in underground clubs (underground because of the bombings, not because they’re shady). Vera is immediately in love with Dylan all over again until she meets his new wife. Things get more awkward as Dylan and Caitlin move in with Vera after being kicked out of a relative’s house. Determined to move on from Dylan, she meets and marries William Kellick (Cillian Murphy), a soldier about to go off to war.
At this point, we have a love triangle that’s difficult to watch. We know Vera loves Dylan and we know Dylan loves every woman. In order for this to work, we have to believe that Dylan has a true love for Vera and that there’s something special there. If we buy into that, then we will feel for these two characters the rest of the movie and it will add to the intensity. Unfortunately, the script portrayed Dylan Thomas as a despicable character and instead of feeling any sympathy for him, we only felt hatred. A lot of poets come off self serving and bratty, but Macdonald’s Dylan Thomas took it to a whole new level. Naturally, if we hate Dylan, we have to question Vera and the emotions she showed for him, especially when she made a commitment to her new husband.
So we don’t like Dylan Thomas, we’re annoyed at Vera Phillips, we feel bad for William Kellick and we don’t even care about Caitlin. Basically, we don’t like any of these characters and all of their pain was due to their dishonesty and inability to not sleep with each other and other people. What makes matters worse is that we never understand why these characters behave this way, other than because they’re immature and selfish. I kept expecting one of these characters to wake up and realize how ridiculous they’ve been acting, but it never happened. They kept cheating, lying and betraying everyone that loved them and no one seemed to learn anything from the pain they caused or the wrongs that were done to them.
If a movie is going to rely on angst and anguish, it needs to develop good (or at the very least, complex) characters that the audience responds to. This movie failed miserably in that regard and the only fitting end to this film would have been to see all of the characters get mowed down by a firing squad. Unfortunately, hearing Matthew Rhys read a Thomas poem as the characters parted ways was both anti-climatic and disappointing.