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A Film Diary

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High quality biographical drama from the ever-classy Terence Davies, in which Cynthia Nixon delivers an excellent performance as the acerbic, witty, forward-thinking American poet Emily Dickinson. It looks great, as it has wonderful period production design, and it’s often very funny, with Dickinson’s superbly caustic zingers arriving regularly throughout (many of which, if anything, are as good as or better than any line in Whit Stillman’s similarly-impressive Love & Friendship). However Davies and Nixon manage to create a strong sense of Dickinson’s loneliness here as well, and that seems to be more important than the humour; Davies explores the way in which the poet’s lifestyle allowed her the freedom to create, yet she is presented as ultimately unfulfilled, and missing out on something crucial: an intimate relationship. It’s clear that the director sympathises very much with his subject, and there are times in which she feels like she could be a proxy. Surely this film is about the director’s own life and work as much as it is Dickinson’s? Davies seems to be lamenting his own periods of loneliness, his own struggles with religion or of living in a repressive society that is overly-concerned with the church’s view on certain subjects. Many lines in the script and recurring themes reinforce the idea, but the beauty of this film is that it is easily one thing and another… and as a tribute to an artist it is both thoughtful and sincere. (****)