The Edge of Love

The Edge of Love movie poster
MPAA rating: NR
Genre: Romance, Drama
Two women (Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller) who are best friends, rival for the love of poet Dylan Thomas.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Anne Lambton, Simon Kassianides
Director: John Maybury
Running time: 1:51

Editorial Review

Keira Knightley has become the go-to girl for period films, and with good reason. From a feisty Jane Austen heroine in "Pride and Prejudice" to a tortured World War II-era lover in "Atonement," Knightley, with her doe-eyed face and lithe frame, somehow seems right in any epoch.

In "The Edge of Love," John Maybury's speculative investigation of the romantic entanglements of poet Dylan Thomas, Knightley plays Vera Phillips, Thomas's real-life childhood friend from Wales. As the film opens, the two reconnect during the London Blitz, when Dylan (Matthew Rhys) is writing British propaganda copy and Vera is crooning in tube stations turned into makeshift cabarets. For a moment it looks like the obvious spark between them will ignite into something more, when -- what ho! -- up pops Dylan's fiery Irish wife, Caitlin (Sienna Miller), and the three embark on a by turns passionate and toxic menage a trois. (Cillian Murphy plays Vera's long-suffering husband, William Killick.)

Maybury is a filmmaker of lush visual imagination. Like "Love Is the Devil," his brilliant portrait of painter Francis Bacon, "The Edge of Love" is shot through with expressive flourishes and tricks of the eye. But they're too often used for effect rather than enlargement, and for all its vivid evocation of its characters' tomorrow-we-die bonhomie, the film finally never quite convinces viewers of its central subject: the sisterly, almost sapphic bond between Vera and Caitlin. That none of the protagonists earns the audience's sympathy is more likely a failure of the real-life characters rather than the actors, who deliver fine performances -- especially Rhys, who seems to be channeling Richard Burton channeling Dylan Thomas at his most manipulatively loutish.

-- Ann Hornaday (March 20, 2009)

Contains profanity, nudity and adult themes.