In attempting to dissect the love life of famed Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas, 'The Edge of Love' starts off confusingly, and it never really gains its footing. The quadrilateral love-fest exposes the naughty behavior of those involved and teases with a few risqué encounters, but the film is hardly racy enough to stir controversy, and the passionate disasters are purely labored speculation and melodrama. British director John Maybury ('The Jacket') delivers an atmospherically moody and lovely-looking period drama with noteworthy performances. Lacking a great deal of focus, however, it ultimately proves to be an underwhelming experience.
Loosely based on real events, the film is set during the Blitz of 1940 London. Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley) is a singer for a nightclub located inside a Tube being used as an air-raid shelter. One night, she bumps into childhood flame Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) and discovers that sparks still fly. Only now, he's married to the beautiful and high-spirited Caitlin MacNamara (Sienna Miller). Despite their rivalry, the two women form a surprisingly strong bond. Tension builds when soldier William Killick (Cillian Murphy) joins the party and weds Vera. William is soon deployed abroad, and the chemistry between Dylan and Vera intensifies, leading to a hostile conflict between friends.
Coming from a script by Sharman Macdonald, playwright and real-life mother of Keira Knightley, 'The Edge of Love' moves very briskly through wartime Britain and ignores biographical accuracy in favor of wishful histrionics. It is unknown if Dylan and Vera's friendship ever advanced beyond mere flirtation, but it's construed here as the sentimental impetus of the tale nonetheless. Most distracting is the absence of a focal point within the narrative as it is difficult to determine whose story this truly is. Equal weight is given to each character and their anxieties, with little concern to an overall effect. The ending, too, feels abrupt and disappointing considering the heated discussions and volatile relationships. The story comes with obvious good intentions, but it is too flawed and unrealized to ever be fully effective.
Performances are the film's strongest features. Rhys ("Brothers & Sisters") creates a convincing picture of the complex Welsh bard, while Murphy ('28 Days Later,' 'Sunshine') maintains an unblemished record as the traumatized war hero. Knightley has been better in 'The Duchess' and 'Atonement,' but she gives just the right amount of 1940s elegance and remorseful indecisiveness to keep things interesting. In the end, Sienna Miller ('Layer Cake,' 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra') steals the spotlight as a once feisty, adventurous woman.
Working in cooperation with cinematographer Jonathan Freeman ('Hollywoodland'), Maybury supplies a visual aesthetic which is arguably wasted on an unsatisfying script. In the end, 'The Edge of Love' demonstrates potential as a great period piece about strained friendships, but the emotional tale could have used a rewrite.
Image Entertainment debuts 'The Edge of Love' with a lovely and appealing picture quality that really shows off the intentional photography of the film. The 1080p/AVC encode (1.85:1) displays the film's antique appearance with a markedly subdued color palette which places more emphasis on yellowish amber tones and warm sepia pigments. The use of soft-focus lenses, diffusion filters, and bokeh techniques are highlighted by this higher resolution transfer, enhancing the overall image quality and producing a dreamy-haze/glamour effect. In spite of these stylized techniques, the picture possesses good clarity and detail both in daylight sequences and dimly-lit interiors. Fine textures in clothing and facial complexions are also noticeable and revealing. While black levels are accurately rendered and rich, contrast is deliberately on the lower end of the grayscale to give the film a dour and gloomy feel.
Equally impressive is the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack accompanying the film. For a period piece, the sound design allows for a significant amount of activity to take place, immersing the listener with an attractive and often realistic soundfield. While the few spurts of action come with bullets and planes flying overhead, the chatter of bar patrons is clear and distinct in the background. Even in its quieter segments, the sound of waves crashing onto the shores of Wales in the distance add rich ambiance. Rear activity appreciably enhances the lossless mix with convincing atmosphere and smooth directional detail, while bass response is precise and intensely palpable. The entire soundstage delivers wonderful clarity with an expansive and sharp dynamic range. Channel separation is well balanced, and character interaction is intelligible from beginning to end. Overall, this is far better than would be expected from a dialogue-driven film.
Image Entertainment releases this Blu-ray edition of 'The Edge of Love' with a mediocre package of supplements, matching its DVD counterpart. I imagine even fans of the film will be sadly disappointed with the special features.
'The Edge of Love' is a period piece with good intentions, but it fails to deliver the sort of drama to which it aspires. Despite offering a small glimpse into the life of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, the film makes for a good-looking production with strong performances but lacks narrative focus. The Blu-ray edition of the Keira Knightley-Sienna Miller drama boasts an attractive audio and video presentation, but the bonus material does nothing to add value. In the end, this is a rental at best.