Edge of Love, The (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie takes a look at this war-time movie with Keira Knightley...
In a war-torn London, childhood sweethearts Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley) and Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) rekindle their acquaintance. When Dylan’s wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) arrives on the scene, rivalry between the women turns into friendship and the three of them enjoy happy times together. Vera then meets William (Cillian Murphy), who asks her to marry him shortly before he’s sent off to war. The money sent home from William funds the lives of the three free spirits back home as Vera and Dylan’s feelings for each other intensify.
Written by Keira Knightley’s mother, The Edge of Love bears a partial resemblance to last year’s Atonement. Knightley’s character is waiting back home for the safe return of her husband, but instead of the two of them being a couple who were meant to be together, here their attempts at happiness are thwarted both by her and Thomas’s feelings for each other. Where the story is concerned, the main difference I found was that where Atonement contained some great sympathetic performances, I failed to connect with this movie due to the fact that I found the three central characters so unlikeable.
While the performances of the main actors are believable (including Knightley’s Welsh accent), the characters themselves were so concerned with their own problems above any else’s that I found it difficult to find anyone to identify with. The experience of watching an obnoxious Dylan Thomas hang around with the women in his life was similar to tagging along with the clique of ‘cool’ kids at school and realising that all they do is drink and smoke and they’re not actually that interesting after all. Only Cillian Murphy offers a character that is the equivalent of an ‘everyman’ but he is missing from long periods of the story.
That’s not to say The Edge of Love is a bad movie. There are plenty of rewarding moments and the main highlight is the visual style of director John Maybury. The movie opens with Keira Knightley singing (according to the commentary she was singing live) in what appears to be a tropical location, but the picture gradually loses its gloss and we realise she’s singing for people in the London Underground who are sheltering from the blitz. This flair is most evident during the sequences set in London and Maybury even goes so far to include a shot from the point of view of a puddle of urine.
Fans of David Lynch may find more reward in this movie than most, with his favourite composer Angelo Badalamenti providing the score and some scenes of Keira Knightley singing have a distinct feel of Blue Velvet about them. However, overall I thought the movie is too long and is more of a triumph of style over substance. The Edge of Love wants to be about the characters’ struggles to accept their love for each other but in the end I didn’t like them enough to care either way.
The Edge of Love has the storyline of a low budget TV movie but the visuals are very striking, so much so that the sepia-tinged soft focus reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow at times. The range of colours is huge, from a bright opening shot that jumps out of the screen to some scenes that are so dark and washed out as to almost be shot in black and white. This is of course all intentional and the transfer does nothing to let the quality of the picture down, with no obvious artefacts and only small signs of compression in the darker scenes. John Maybury notes on his commentary that the scenes set in London were shot in digital high definition and the scenes set in Wales were shot in 35mm film but I didn’t notice any variation in quality on this disc. If there’s one reason to watch this movie, it’s definitely the visual style and there are no problems here to detract from your enjoyment.
The only soundtrack option is Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and while the sound production isn’t quite as impressive as the visuals, there are also no issues with the quality on offer here. There are moments when directional sound comes into play, with air raid sirens and a few explosions during certain key scenes, but this is generally a dialogue-heavy movie with most of the action coming from the front speakers. Angelo Badalemti’s score adds an extra something to the movie but it doesn’t drown out the dialogue or the narration when Dylan Thomas recites one of his poems.
The disc opens with trailers for The Spirit, Suburban Girl (so that’s what happened to Sarah Michelle Gellar), Lonesome Jim, Mad Money and Death Defying Acts. The commentary track is provided by director John Maybury and Dylan Thomas himself Matthew Rhys. The two of them share plenty of banter and anecdotes about the making of the movie including the fact that the characters pretty much chain-smoke their way through the whole story, but it’s when Rhys stops talking that Maybury gets into the real technical detail about the production.
We then get a ten-minute featurette ‘Looking Over The Edge of Love’, which consists of interviews with the main actors who discuss their characters. Matthew Rhys talks about his apprehension about playing the character of Thomas and Keira Knightley mentions the fact that while she had pre-recorded the songs she sings, Maybury made her sing them live at short notice. There are seven deleted scenes on offer but as is usually the case, they would have made an already too-long film even longer and don’t offer much more in the way of character or plot development. Finally we get an animated photo gallery that appears to be pictures of the premiere and a four-minute gag reel showing the actors messing around on set and filming the sex scenes.
The Edge of Love has the plot of a period romance novel but just doesn’t have the characters to make the story compelling for this reviewer, even if they are based on real people and one of them is a well-respected poet. What the movie does have going for it is the visual style and Badalamenti’s score and I have no complaints with either of them on this DVD. The extras aren’t exactly comprehensive but do give a pretty good insight into the production.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 27th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English
Extras: Audio Commentary with Director John Maybury and Actor Matthew Rhys, Interviews with Cast and Crew, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Maybury
Cast: Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Ciallian Murphy, Matthew Rhys
Length: 110 minutes
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