Impossible Balance
Review by Ross Anthony

Sylvia already has a predisposition toward death. She tried once unsuccessfully. She's beautiful and clever, outwardly bright, inwardly sad, desperate. She aims her impossible balance between life and death at the paper of poetry and finds something to live about.

Add to that a passionate love affair with an established British poet that evolves into an excruciatingly normal family life and Sylvia finds new dangerous games to play in her head.

This film is based on notes (Birthday Letters) released by that British poet (Ted Hughes) just 5 years ago, after over 30 years of silence about the topic. So I suppose, you'll be watching a film about a notable poet as seen through the eyes of another poet. Will that taint the truth? Does it matter?

If you're more than familiar with Sylvia's work, you'll no doubt be keenly interested. Still, those unfamiliar (myself included) may not be terribly compelled by this story. Still, the sparkling cinematography and picture perfect set/costume design (mostly early 60's) bring a great deal of life to this non-life-loving script.

I'm biased though, I love life, and I find no joy/entertainment watching others throw theirs away. I am sympathetic only when health is the issue. While many were engaged by "The hours," I was not. Life should be flirted with, courted, passionately embraced -- not death. And I do not enjoy spending my evening watching perfectly healthy people plotting their own demise.

  • Sylvia. Copyright © 2003. Rated R. 110 min.
  • Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Jared Harris, Blythe Danner, Michael Gambon, Amira Casar.
  • Directed by Christine Jeffs.
  • Screenplay by John Brownlow.
  • Produced by Alison Owen at Focus/BBC/Capitol/UK-Ruby.

Grade..........................B- (1.5/4)

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:54:44 PDT