Poet Dylan Thomas was a man of contradictions. A staunch opponent of Britain’s involvement in the Second World War he was still forced to become a writer of propagandist commentary to avoid the front.
As a Welshman in London, he yearned for the shoreline of his “golden childhood” yet struggled with its parochialism when he returned, and as a lover he incited his childhood sweetheart never to change though he remained constant to nothing claiming, “I sleep with other women because I’m a poet and poets feed off life.”
So claims The Edge of Love, billed as a Thomas biopic and this year’s opener for the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Yet, despite the literary context provided by a smattering of the poet’s verses, Thomas himself becomes something of a foil in the film, a medium through which to observe the complex rivalry and friendship of the two women in his life, Vera Philips and Caitlin Thomas.
The Edge of Love opens with the chance meeting of Dylan (Mathew Rhys) and Vera (Keira Knightley), in a London bar during the blitz, and it seems as if their first love is about to be rekindled until the arrival of Dylan’s wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller), described by him as, “Queen of Ireland, wife of mine and mother of my child.”
Despite Caitlin marking her territory the wish to relive old times is irresistible and circumstances force the Thomases to move in with Vera. The women quickly forge a close friendship with Thomas calling Vera his sky and Caitlin his earth.
For a while all threat to Caitlin seems to subside as Vera falls for the charming Captain Killick, played by Cillian Murphy. But when Killick is posted to Greece, loneliness and desperation drive the childhood friends ever closer and Caitlin continues down the path to self-destruction.
Beautifully shot, The Edge of Love splices the emotional turmoil of the three friends with World War II footage, juxtaposing their hedonistic excesses with the horrors faced by Killick and his comrades. Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller sparkle in the leading roles, expertly portraying the jealousies and heartaches of women in love.
A strong start to what promises to be a captivating festival.
Review by Katie Smyth