Published on June 24th, 2013 | by Allan Brown2
EIFF 2014: Set Fire to the Stars Review
Movie Review: Set Fire to the Stars (2014)
Running Time: 90 mins
Director: Andy Goddard
Writer: Andy Goddard, Celyn Jones
Cast: Celyn Jones, Kelly Reilly, Elijah Wood, Shirley Henderson, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Eldon
Presented in black and white where light and shadow not only waltz to the astute and artistic direction of Andy Goddard and his team, but perhaps embody the very essence of its two lead protagonists themselves.
The story Set Fire to the Stars is based on the renowned Welsh Poet, Dylan Thomas (Ceyln Jones,) and his first tour of America in the 1950s. Despite the surface narrative drawing on Thomas’s chaotic nature during his whistle-stop tour, the essence of the story explores the unhinged friendship created between Professor and event organiser, John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood), and his efforts to control the erratic and uncompromising beast that was Dylan Thomas.
Despite its subject matter and real life prevalence, Set Fire to the Stars manages to avoid all the pitfalls that plague movie Biopics. Indeed this is no stuffy memoir by any stretch of the imagination.
Governed by two remarkable performances, this beautifully poetic film is drenched in artistic majesty.
This is in part due to Goddard’s sharp direction and delightful framing of shot that would not look out of place in an art gallery. Furthermore, it is Chris Seager cinematography that really gives the film its sense of style and artistic merit. Collectively, it really is a stunning ensemble of talent on display.
This finally brings me to the dynamic and truly electric performances from both Elijah Wood and Celyn Jones. Even with the most intelligent direction and inspired cinematography, this character piece would have fallen flat had the chemistry on screen not worked. Thankfully it does.
Elijah offers a near perfect performance as the semi repressed and part time babysitter for Dylan Thomas. His personal journey is handled with great care and his character arc is perhaps the most rewarding to watch unravel.
However, it is Celyn Jones who steals the show, fully embracing the character of Dylan Thomas in all his guises to flawless precession. He is undoubtedly a troubled man with a marvellous mind and his whirlwind presence on screen is perhaps one of the strongest and most dynamic I have seen in cinema, in recent years. Despite his character being a selfish alcoholic and uncompromising force of nature, he offers an abundance of delight whenever on screen and his escapades and wit are hilarious to watch.
Summary: Governed by two remarkable performances, this beautifully poetic film is drenched in artistic majesty.