This film is one of those that I go to thinking I’ll wish I hadn’t. Costume dramas and a lot of moody lingering camera shots at sumptuous gowns and stiff backed men. Ideally these trips would pay for themselves in the extra sleep that comes with them but rarely do films I don’t enjoy send me to sleep.
The other side to that slight ennui as I collect the tickets is the knowledge that rarely am I disappointed by such fare, possibly because I come to them with such low expectations.
I did wonder at this one because while I’ve admired Emily Dickinson’s poetry it’s not of the jolly pick-me-up-on-a-wet-Wednesday genre.
You kind of know where this is going, don’t you? The audience was, inevitably, of the thoughtful turns-off-the-phone-and-doesn’t-eat-popcorn sort – those types had plenty to enjoy on the other screens with Fast and Furious 8 and Get Out. As a result there weren’t any distractions and we settled back to see how they could make entertainment out of a poet’s life that was unremarkable in its reasonable longevity (no 20 something early demise here) and stable family (minor scandals apart) and comfortable home life.
There were lingering shots, of snow and cheery blossom, bonnets and parasols galore; there was incidental stress over some infractions with her father and the local reverend. And there was a continuing battle to have her worth as a poet recognised in her lifetime that sadly failed. Her faltering contempt for organised religion played out nicely against the horrors of the civil war but largely her’s was a life externally untroubled and internally at war with itself. We heard a lot about the concerns for her soul and its earthly nourishment and we had some well-chosen voiced over poetry that complemented the scenes.
The acting was a little mixed: Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle were multi faceted and clever in their portrayals; the male actors less so, in the case of the chap playing her brother the picture on the poster at the entrance was at times more effective in communicating his feelings than his acting.
As she sank into some later life bitterness her waspish tongue came to the fore and those were some of the best scenes. When asked if she wanted to come down as her brother’s lover was departing she mused ‘This life I hope?’ Was she so beautifully and breathtakingly rude? Maybe not but it rounded her off and gave the chance for Nixon to display a range of acting skills in what was otherwise a constrained characterisation.
So, yes, the trip was worthwhile. Perhaps to say I ‘enjoyed’ myself might be stretching things in the same way Dickinson would have though it overstated. If slow moving and thoughtful (but neither glacial nor thought provoking) are your bag and, especially if you like her poetry then this is for you. If you’re not sure it might be too racy for you, maybe try some of the Slow TV the Norwegians like – you know, where you watch a leaf float down a river for two hours or a sultana swell in a cup of marsala over night – and if that leaves you mellow, pop along. If however you even think seeing Fast and Furious 8 might be worth a shot then avoid this as you would an ‘Evening of Song and Dance with Boris Johnson’. If the HHGTTG contained a section on Earth Films this would probably come in under ‘essentially harmless’.
I must report no ice cream. I know, how can that be. If you take a delayed skype call to No. 1 Son, an early showing and some uncooked fishcakes you end up at the cinema craving salt and buy crisps instead – I had some of those deep fried beetroot and sweet potato johnnies which I usually poo-poo but they did the trick. And no I didn’t eat them in the auditorium. Please, give me credit…