Some find the film slow, boring and depressing. Dickinson wasn't a modern Hollywood action heroine but a poet who became reclusive. Frustrated by lack of interest in, and tampering with, her few published poems, she was worn down too by restrictive female roles and finally her own ill health. But along the way the film also has grace and wit and conveys her unique spark- thanks to a superb central performance.
I could listen to Cynthia Nixon read Dickinson's poetry for the rest of my days. Combine such a quietly emotive reading of the text with the meticulous & controlled mise en scène of Davies & you have one of the most beautiful, sensitive & emotional films of the current decade. A masterpiece that is at once a character study, feminist statement & an ode to the solitude of those overwhelmed by the experience of living.
Not the easiest film to get into: it's written and acted like a stage play, with the kind of mannerisms that drain human behavior of spontaneity. But as time passes it becomes elegiac, its admirably defiant heroine rigid while the constants in her life disappear. After all, did she ever have a better option? Not sensationalized enough for the Academy or "edgy" for enough for indies, it maintains a simple purity.
A poor neurotic portray of a fascinating woman. As for directing, tedious dialogue and voice over don't leave enough space for the filmic language to unravel properly allowing us to access our lead poetically – rather than intellectually. Cinema is poetry but it must use the medium's own language.
This artist biopic ought to be one of Terence Davies's more accessible movies (and it is in many ways since there is more humor in it than you would expect) but it is also a gut-wrenching film due to the main performance which I had not been prepared for. I was expecting a cold beautiful aesthetic but I got so much more with Cynthia Nixon. I can't believe there can be a better performance given this year.
Though a fastidiously composed and serious work of art (that at times reminded me of the highest heights of Max Ophüls), I feel I must attribute to Davies here a kind of undercurrent of sniggering remove in his treatment of an American subject; far from being a liability, this indirectly caused me to feel champagne-drunk and giddy for the first two-thirds. Helps that Dickinson is impossibly dear to me.
Moments of Davies' artistic genius are found in the way light passes, in the way the camera lingers in close up, and the way song is woven into the otherwise overly literary, conversation centered film.
84/100 - Great.