During production, this competent if cool-blooded chronicle of poet Dylan Thomas’ love-triangle exploits had the media frothing with anticipation of Sapphic sauce between Keira and Sienna. Sorry boys – the photogenic duo do little more than share a bath. Rather than a titillating tale of two good-time gals tipping the velvet, The Edge Of Love charts the growing friendship between Thomas’ hedonistic wife Cat (Miller, replacing Lindsay Lohan) and his childhood sweetheart Vera (Knightley) – all played out in the shadow of the charismatic but sexually voracious Welsh bard. Baps out? Yes. Full-on carpet-munching? No chance.
As seen in his Francis Bacon biopic Love Is The Devil, director John Maybury knows his way around carnal jealousy and obsessive love. Then there’s his kaleidoscopic visuals. Shaking up the sometimes stagey script by Sharman Macdonald – also known as Keira’s mum – Maybury’s inventive lens paints a bohemian microcosm of WW2 life, taking in unexpected camera angles (at one point looking up through a pool of wee), bleached-out close-ups, exacting period detail and rich, primary-coloured tableaux. Knightley’s rarely looked more stunning than in the opening, dream-like cabaret sequence, or when she lustily sings to Cillian Murphy’s love-lorn squaddie amid the inferno of a Blitz-baked London. (And her pipes ain’t half bad, either.)
Alas, Ms K’s looks and commendable Welsh accent can’t float this film alone – especially when the wartime era, her character’s enforced separation from her lover and her repetition of the line “Come back to me” only serve to recall her excellent recent work in the superior Atonement.
Elsewhere, Murphy manages to breathe life into his sketchy William and Rhys easily captures Thomas’ half-cut glowering, which leaves only Miller to disappoint with her two-dimensional flouncing and an ‘Irish’ accent that veers between Sloaney pony and Wales via Cornwall. As with the unfortunate stunt casting of one-time chart botherers Suggs and Lisa Stansfield in cameos, Miller has a habit of pulling the viewer out of the picture. And though Macdonald’s script is witty and pithy it lacks a certain sympathy, never quite managing to explain why two smart women were so drawn to an unfaithful, selfish lush who pissed their cash away and peed in people’s hallways for a laugh.
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A plush mood piece that conjures both the boho fatalism of wartime London and the pain of being attracted to a wrong 'un. But sorry Keira - and your ma - it's no Atonement.