Directed by Christine Jeffs

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Gwyneth Paltrow gives a convincing portrayal of the archetypal tortured poet in this Sylvia Plath biopic.

In viewing the last few years before her 1963 suicide, we first encounter Plath at Cambridge, where she meets the man who would shortly become her husband - Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig). Their fiery relationship - with its periodic swings between extremes of love and hate - has fascinated many thousands of people for decades, and Sylvia gives it a worthwhile examination.

With her ambitions as a writer continually frustrated, Plath begins a downward spiral into her final depression and Jeffs lays on the misery with a trowel. Against bleak rural backdrops, the wind groans its way through the house. Even if you like this kind of stuff, it begins to irritate after a while, although the sheer quality of acting from the two main protagonists (plus a cameo from Michael Gambon) more than compensates. Hughes devotees may complain that his side of the story - illustrated by 1998 collection Birthday Letters - is virtually ignored, but that was an inevitable outcome, since the film attempts to climb inside Plath’s head and not his.

Despite the high calibre of performers on show, Sylvia has been given a very limited release in the UK; on its opening weekend, just 67 cinemas bothered to show it. This is a travesty, because it provides a gripping introduction to the life and work of one of the twentieth century’s most important poets. Whilst the film is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, the dumbing-down of cinema is far more demoralising.