Throwback to when Gwyneth Paltrow was Sylvia Plath

It has been a while since this film came out in 2003, but it still remains a powerful piece of acting from Gwyneth Paltrow. The dark biopic, Sylvia, is directed by Christine Jeffs, and stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. The two leads are husband and wife in this movie about a wandering journey through a lost and troubled poet’s mindset. Humanity and life are portrayed to be as gloomy as the mind thinks them to be, and in Sylvia Plath’s case it is a sadly depressing, suffocating, yet delicate life. (KIZJ: 4/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Katusha Jin

“Sylvia” (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a young student at Cambridge University studying poetry, who eagerly searches for reviews in newspapers of her recent works. Discontent with the review, she happens upon another writer’s piece of work. Curious as to who the man behind the writing is, she attends a social gathering and meets “Edward (Ted) Hughes” (Daniel Craig) for the first time.

Days after, she ponders upon whether Ted has thought of her after their dancing. When told by her roommate that Ted had thrown rocks at her window mistaking it for Sylvia’s, she cannot contain her excitement and runs to his address. As they recite poetry and row down the river in Cambridge, they begin the romantic start to their relationship.

One morning, Ted receives news of one of his works achieving success and although the two are ecstatic about it, Sylvia soon begins to feel overshadowed by him. After marriage, the two return to Sylvia’s home in America, where her mother, “Aurelia Plath” (Blythe Danner), warns Ted that Sylvia has only fallen for him because she fears him. From hereon, the relationship between the two begins to spiral to a place of obsession, jealousy, and lack of trust.

Christine Jeffs’ movie is definitely intriguing. Sylvia rides on the success of its incredible leading cast and a special mention goes to Karen Lindsay-Stewart for casting the movie so perfectly. Where the film is lacking and bleak, it is made up for by Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig’s embodiment of the characters. Paltrow in particular, brings out a poisonous, self-harming, delicate nature in her role, and interprets Sylvia as this ambitious, frustrated, and discontent writer. For the haunting idiosyncrasies that turned Paltrow into Sylvia for the duration of the film, I have to applaud Paltrow again.

Although the depiction of their relationship would not satisfy the poet’s fans, there is certainly a dangerously infectious dark aura that exudes from the biopic. The production design, by Maria Djurkovic, and the cinematography, by John Toon, give the picture its ghostly somber tone. Gabriel Yared also does an exceptional job for the music of the film as it juggles between horror, delicacy, and insanity. Although at times the script is guilty of skimming over details, Sylvia is acted so convincingly that she stays with the audience long after the movie has ended.

© Katusha Jin (7/15/17) FF2 Media

Featured Photo: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes in the early stages of their relationship on a couch.

Photo Credits: David Appleby

Does Sylvia pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?


“Assia Wevill” (Amira Casar) compliments Sylvia Plath on her poetry and Sylvia replies saying this is the best review she has gotten so far.

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Katusha Jin
As part of the FF2 Media team, Katusha Jin interviews filmmakers, write features and reviews, and coaches other associates. She grew up in the UK and studied briefly in Russia and China before moving to New York for college. Graduating magna cum laude from New York University, Katusha majored in Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts with minors in Business and Philosophy. She has worked as a producer, director, writer, and composer for various award-winning projects including short films, branded content, independent features, and music videos.
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