Set Fire To The Stars

This film based on a Dylan Thomas tour of 1950 when Thomas was at the peak of his powers and the debilitating downward spiral which would soon ravage him was still in its earliest stages although the signs that things were going to deteriorate were blatantly obvious. Andy Goddard does a sterling job of directing this work which stars Celyn Jones as the wayward poet and Elijah Wood as academic promoter and fellow poet John Malcolm Brinnin and captures perfectly the precarious foundations the two radically different personalities this strange friendship was grounded on.
The film begins with Brinnin desperately bargaining for funding to bring Thomas to America to give readings at prestigious colleges and universities. It is a tough task and one he almost messes up. However after he succeeds in getting the poet to New York it would seem that this was the easy part as Thomas and the city which never sleeps are not wholly compatible; or rather they are too compatible with Thomas embracing the party circuit with a little too much gusto.
In order to salvage the trip Brinnin absconds with him to his family retreat in the middle of nowhere where the two make up, fall out, make up and fall out again, all in a very short period of time before returning to the city where Thomas can give his readings and meet those who are supposedly good for his career. Naturally this does not go quite as planned.
The use of black and white cinematography is perfect for capturing the early fifties depicted in this film and it has something of a pre-colour ‘Madmen’ feel about it in its styling. At times it feels like it is being overly polite –despite the cussing, brawling, and drunken exhortations- but this is a minor quibble. The soundtrack by Gruff Rhys is also outstanding and all in all everything conspires in making this, Goddard’s debut, more than adequate.

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