While on a train, a teenage boy thinks about his life and the flamboyant aunt whose friendship acted as an emotional shield from his troubled family. This film evokes the haunting quality ... See full summary »
The lives of an English working-class family are told out of order in a free-associative manner. The first part, "Distant Voices", focuses on the father's role in the family. The second part, "Still Lives", focuses on his children.
A Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams.
Haley Lu Richardson,
Cynthia Nixon has detected similarities in the personality of Emily Dickinson with hers: In having big feelings, in wanting to connect with other people but not for example party with them, and in desiring to receive attention but kind of having a reluctance of the certain things one does that make it happen. See more »
The Bahn Frei polka played in the dance scene had not been written at the time. See more »
A Superb Dramatization of the Life of a Great American Poet
Emily Dickinson isn't the easiest subject for a feature-length biopic. True, she is the greatest female poet in the English language, maybe even in world literature. But her life was uneventful in the extreme. She never married and probably died a virgin. Her love affairs were conducted by correspondence. She became reclusive as she got older, donning a white dress, rarely leaving home, and holding conversations through doorways. She wrote poetry—a kind of literature appealing only to a tiny minority of readers and not amenable to film adaptation. Moreover, with a few exceptions, her poems are difficult: she specialized in extreme mental states and thorny intellectual paradoxes. And she died in complete obscurity—it's only by good fortune that the 1800 poems she wrote still exist. At her death the vast majority of them existed only in a single handwritten manuscript and could easily have been consigned to flame as the ramblings of an eccentric spinster.
So Dickinson's biography hardly conforms to the typical story arc or dramatic requirements of the average American film. Until now, the most successful dramatization of the life of this poet who lived an interior existence, both literally and figuratively, was the one-woman play The Belle of Amherst, which needless to say emphasized her isolation.
Terence Davies's film knows and accepts all this, yet remembers that Dickinson in her own time was not a great poet, except perhaps only in the farthest reaches of her own imagination. Instead of a lonely genius, Davies conjures up a Dickinson who was very much a social being, even if her interactions were largely restricted to her family. Cynthia Nixon's Emily is a flawed, totally plausible, and deeply sympathetic woman of her time.
This is a brilliant film in the way it exploits the resources of the medium. The performances are universally excellent, and the dialogue is as witty as it must have been among clever Emily and her circle. Davies captures the claustrophobic interiors and repressed souls of still- Puritan mid-19th-century small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. The editing and pacing are superb, as for example in a slow 360 degree pan around the Dickinson sitting room that begins and ends on Emily's face.
But it's also brilliant in the way that it interprets Dickinson's life. How did the Civil War impact her Amherst domesticity? Why did she wear a white dress? What did she feel when her brother Austin, who lived with his wife Susan next door, started conducting an adulterous affair in her own living room? How did she feel to be dying slowly and horribly of kidney disease knowing that her poetry (her "Letter to the World" as she put it) was almost totally unread? Did the hope that she'd be appreciated by posterity reconcile her to her fate? Nixon's Emily behaves in each case as a human being would, making her predicament painful to watch. But it's strangely exhilarating too—we watch knowing that Dickinson's "Letter" has most definitely been delivered.
The film is slow-paced and developed as a series of vignettes. There's quite a lot of poetry in voice-over. At no point does it pander to 21st- century sensibilities. It will not be to the taste of the majority of the cinema-going public. Nor will many Dickinson cultists enjoy it, as they often prefer to idealize or mythologize her rather than think of her as a flesh-and-blood woman. But as a plausible biography of one of America's greatest poets, this film is nothing short of a triumph.
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