It's always a tricky one-trying to give a balanced view of a marriage that none of us was part of and in which the only two participants are dead. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the preppy American abroad to a T, and portrays Sylvia's darker and more complex sides with equal aplomb. Daniel Craig gives a charismatic perfromance as Ted, who was famously attractive to women (even if you see pictures of him in his later years, he still had those piercing hawk like eyes).
The film portrays the inequality of the early sixties- for all its liberalism, she was always going to be overshadowed by her husband. Despite her intelligence and strong character, she was still Ted's wife to their contemporaries. It would be easy to judge Sylvia for her temper and irrational jealousy, but it must have been agony to have always been that suspicious, traumatised, and angry. It would also be easy to judge Ted and simply condemn his infidelity, but what I liked about this film is that you judge them both. She was wrong, he was wrong and at the same time they were both right. Pretty much how marriage goes.
Little touches of authenticity throughout the film make it all the more real: the dirty squalor of the kitchen when they both worked at Smith, the typical intellectual competitiveness amongst young students in the scene where they recite Shakespeare faster and faster, and the amount of blankets they have on the bed during the cold Cambridge winter.
Throughout the film, the wintry atmosphere reigns and London, always good looking in films, looks frozen and inaccessible as towards the end, Sylvia's mental state reduces her to the erratic, suicidal woman she became. It's an essay on the tragedy of mental illness, a literary biography, and a tender love story. Definitely worth buying.