Sylvia (2003)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Marriage Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 17, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Todd Kristel

Sylvia is an intelligent and respectful film that's not a whole lot of fun. It appears that the filmmakers tried to be fair-minded and avoid overt sensationalism when depicting Sylvia Plath's troubled life. But the result is a glum, staid, and emotionally inaccessible movie that doesn't offer any great insights into Plath. The acting is generally good, including fine supporting performances by Jared Harris as Plath's editor and friend Al Alvarez, Blythe Danner as her mother Aurelia, and Michael Gambon as her neighbor Professor Thomas. Daniel Craig gives an effectively understated performance as Plath's husband Ted Hughes, although the character remains somewhat enigmatic throughout the film. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow does a commendable job of absorbing herself fully into the lead role. She gives a nuanced performance and conveys Plath's fragility and volatility without resorting to excessive scenery chewing or stepping out of character to milk sympathy from the audience. Unfortunately, Plath does not come across as a particularly engaging character; it doesn't help that Paltrow doesn't have much opportunity to express warmth or humor, particularly in the latter part of the film, or that we get little sense of her relationship with her children or whatever joy she might have gotten out of her writing. The movie does a good job of showing that Plath was unhappy, but it does little more than wallow in tastefully presented misery.