Set Fire to the Stars | Film review – Rowdy Dylan Thomas runs amok amid the literati in 1950s America


‘How much trouble can one poet be?’

Elijah Wood’s anxiously ambitious young professor Malcolm Brinnin discovers the answer chaperoning Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones) during his first reading tour of America in 1950. Thomas may be the ‘purest lyrical poet in the English-speaking world,’ but he’s also a roistering drunk notorious for wreaking mischievous mayhem.

Acting as ‘benefactor, babysitter, nursemaid,’ Brinnin hauls the writer away from the fleshpots of New York and installs him in his family’s boathouse in Connecticut to sober up before his next engagement, but a visit from a married couple of literary neighbours (Kevin Eldon and Shirley Henderson) sparks further trouble.

Adapted from Brinnin’s memoir by Jones and director Andy Goddard, this is a striking low-budget biopic whose lustrous black and white cinematography does an impressive job of recreating the look of 1950s East Coast America, notwithstanding being filmed in Wales.

Yet when it comes to Thomas himself, despite Jones’s spirited performance, the film doesn’t succeed in bottling lightning. There are flashes of the poet’s genius amid the boozy windbaggery, but the demons that drove him remain elusive.


Certificate 15. Runtime 97 mins. Director Andy Goddard.


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