7.5 out of 10
Release Date:17th November 2014
Director: Andy Goddard (A Kind of Murder / Downton Abbey (TV) / Law & Order UK (TV) / Dr Who (TV) / Torchwood (TV))
Cast: Elijah Wood, Celyn Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Eldon, Andrew Bicknell, Maimie McCoy, Steve Spiers, Richard Brake, Kate Drew, Adam Gillen, Weston Gavin with Kelly Reilly and Shirley Henderson
Writer: Andy Goddard & Celyn Jones
Trailer: SET FIRE TO THE STARS
Elijah Wood (GREEN STREET) impresses in this low-budget look at Dylan Thomas’ (CELYN JONES – CASTLES IN THE SKY) first tour of America in the 1950s. He was chaperoned by fellow poet and Yale lecturer John M. Brinnin. Nobody was prepared for the drunken, train crash of a man that would show up and wreck just about every social occassion he attended. In an effort to downsize the level of damage, Brinnin hid Thomas out at his family cabin in Connecticut. The period in his life was said to have ruined his career and banished him into obscurity, but he wrote an infamous account of it, and here’s the film.
Relative newcomer Celyn Jones is every bit the Dylan Thomas we’d expect. It’s like when Stephen Fry was cast as Oscar Wilde in Wilde it’s just a perfect job. The story is potentially fascinating but the film is slowly strangled by some peculiar stylistic choices. The unlikely decision to present it in monochrome is a strike against it as there seems to be no reason for it and although there are plenty of outside scenes the whole film has the feel of a stage play. It’s essentially a two-hander as only a few of the supporting actors make a difference and after a while the tale begins to repeat itself and run out of energy. Much like people who hang around in the presence of drunks, they are fun for a short while, then you tire of them very quickly. Gruff Rhys supplies a tinkly piano score, which distracts rather than inspires. I felt that the score was muscling in on a piece of the action rather than blending into the picture like it should. It just floats around on the top like oil. South Wales doubles for Connecticut and I’m not sure it convinces. I’ve never been there, but the scenes of Swansea doubling as New York city wouldn’t fool anybody. They are fleeting though. It’s a shame that there are so many distractions (due to it’s small budget) from the brilliant performances. Elijah Wood confirms his place as an actor prepared to take risks with his career and this is one of his best ever roles. Celyn Jones should go far if only enough of the right people get to see his generous yet showy performance here. There are one or two scenes which are electric, including a late night drinking session that turns dark after a round of ghoulish stories.
The film is also a timely look at the cult of celebrity and the divide between those who are given a ‘god-like’ status and the rest. The film poster tellingly warns “never meet your heroes”…. It’s scarier than the “In space no one can hear you scream…” Maybe.
7.5 out of 10 – A very interesting film that is carried by a great background story and wonderful actors. It’s a shame that it’s budget was so small as it looks cheap, all the black and white photography in the world can’t cover up the number of distractions on display here. For fans of Elijah Wood, this is one of his best.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Elijah Wood: The Last Witch Hunter, Cooties, Open Windows, Grand Piano, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, Maniac, Happy Feet 2 (voice), #9 (voice), The Oxford Murders, Happy Feet (voice), Bobby, Paris Je T’Aime, Everything Is Illuminated, Sin City, Green Street, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Lord of the Rings – Return of the King, Spy Kids 3, The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers, Ash Wednesday, The Lord of the RIngs – Fellowship of the Ring, Black & White, The Faculty, Deep Impact, The Ice Storm, Flipper, The War, North, The Good Son, The Adventures of Huck Finn, Forever Young, Radio Flyer, Paradise (1992), Avalon, Internal Affairs, Back To The Future 2
- Celyn Jones: Chasing Robert Barker, Mary Shelley’s Monster, The Healer, Castles In The Sky, Above Suspicion (TV), Jo (TV), Lassie, Grange Hill (TV)
- Steven Mackintosh: Urban Hymn, A Hundred Streets, Bone In The Throat, Robot Overlords, Gold, The Sweeney, Elfie Hopkins, The Scouting Book For Boys, Luther (TV), Underworld 2 & 3, The Escapist, Land Girls, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, House Of America, The Grotesque, Muppets Christmas Carol, Blue Juice, Princess Caraboo, The Buddha Of Suburbia (TV), London Kills Me
- Kevin Eldon: The Comedian’s Guide To Survival, Danger Mouse (voice)(TV), Up All Night, The Wedding Video, Faintheart, Hyperdrive (TV), Hot Fuzz, Nathan Barley (TV)
- Andrew Bicknell: Dhoom3, One In The Chamber, Howard’s Way (TV), The Great Escape 2
- Maimie McCoy: The Musketeers (TV)
- Steve Spiers: Stella (TV), The Bad Education Movie, Hunky Dory, Cemetery Junction, The Baby Juice Express, Extras (TV), Eragon, The Musketeer, Topsy Turvy
- Richard Brake: The Cannibal In The Jungle, Bitter Harvest, Spy (2015), Kingsman – Secret Service, The Counsellor, The Numbers Station, The Incident, Water For Elephants, Cuckoo, Legacy – Black Ops, Halloween 2 (2009), Outpost, Hannibal Rising, The Black Dahlia, Doom, Batman Begins, Cold Mountain, Death Machine
- Adam Gillen: Benidorm (TV), We Are the Freaks, 4-3-2-1
- Weston Gavin: Pudsey The Dog, Curse of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther
- Kelly Reilly: True Detective (TV), Chinese Puzzle, Calvary, Flight, Above Suspicion (TV), Sherlock Holmes 2, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Me and Orson Welles, Eden Lake, Mrs Henderson Presents, Last Orders, Maybe Baby
- Shirley Henderson: Urban Hymn, In Secret, Filth, The Look Of Love, Everyday, Anna Karenina (2012), Meek’s Cutoff, Life During Wartime, Wild Child, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, Marie Antoinette, Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire, A Cock And Bull Story, Bridget Jones 2, Yes, Intermission, Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets, Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, 24 Hour Party People, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Claim (2000), Wonderland (2000), Topsy Turvy, Trainspotting, Rob Roy