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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


The Edge of Love (2008) on IMDb

Plot Overview

London Underground Shelter, The Blitz, 1940. Makeshift colored spotlights illuminate beautiful busker Vera Phillips (Keira Knightley) dressed in a gay Islands outfit. She croons a sweet melody:

Once a native maiden and a stranger met
Underneath the blue Tahitian moon.
The stars were in her eyes, gardenias in her hair.
And they vowed to care forever.

The stranger sailed away
With a parting kiss that came too soon.
And now the trade winds sigh
When ships go sailing by.
We hear in the background a man's voice on the radio intoning:
This country is at war with Germany.

Many are bombed out of their homes.

Today, the evacuation of London schoolchildren began.

Aircraft were launched in two attacks against London.

We see as part of the war effort Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Welsh actor Matthew Rhys) writing propaganda films. In a crowd he encounters by chance his child­hood sweet­heart (“I love you”) Vera. Later he meets up with (“Give us a fag”) his Irish wife (“I'm out of bloody fags”) Caitlin MacNamara (Sienna Miller)—cigarette smoking was endemic in war­time. In a saloon Vera meets her, too, “a small matter of a wife.

Dashing Captain William Killick (Cillian Murphy) hits on Vera despite her repeated rebuffs. Vera, Caitlin, and Dylan share a flat together. “It's like living with children,” Dylan remarks. Vera relents (“Make love to me”) to William's advances. When he joins them at their flat, Dylan laments, “A stranger has come to share my room in the house.” Wedding bells sound when Capt. Killick is called up to fight in Thessaly, Greece. Pregnant Vera moves to Wales bringing with her the Thomases. There they dwell in side-by-side bungalows on the beach. They engage in gay frolicking away from the cares of war. Dylan confesses: “I … sleep with other women … because I'm a poet, and a poet feeds off life.” Caitlin also confesses, “I get an itch, it's gotta be scratched.” Vera for her part puts her romance with Dylan in the past of child­hood innocence, but Dylan's a charmer for whom, “Sex is a giggle, no matter who it's with.

Vera receives news, “They're sending William home.” Both William and Vera had changed, one being shell shocked, the other a new mom. After William goes on a rampage with a sten gun, he is arrested (“Capt. Killick, it's the police”) and charged with attempted murder. He must stand trial so can't go back with his unit just yet. When his unit is wiped out and he thus spared, Dylan ever the propagandist considers him­self the hero (“It saved his life, this trial”) for keeping his “acquaintance” William from the doomed fighting men.


William had had intense wartime intimacy being married to his unit, while Vera had reignited her child­hood bond to Dylan and become “best friends” with Caitlin. Yet with each other, William and Vera had had no time to develop much intimacy—except for some passing sex that wasn't even all that exclusive on Vera's part. How can a marriage like theirs be an enduring institution with such competition? Well, what is marriage? I'll quote Dr. Ide: “The Con­tem­por­ary Christian stan­dard was defined not by the bible but gen­er­ated by Roman law as defined by the jurist Modest­inus who argued that marriage was ‘consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communi­catio: a life-long part­ner­ship, and a sharing of civil and religious rights’” (83–5).

For the secular side, the movie gives us the proverbial piece of paper that William brandishes to Vera: “It's a marriage license.” It's a “special one” as William is about to be shipped out on short notice.

The religious side is the community represented by the two witnesses Dylan & Vera who invoked God's name when they encouraged acceptance of Williams's proposal (“Now, for God's sake say yes!”) The witnesses were delayed arriving at the wedding chapel causing the Registrar—an ecclesiastical officer in the Church of England—(Geoffrey Beevers known for portraying clergy­men and adminis­trators) to suggest, “We've a couple of cleaners who'd be pleased to act as witnesses.” This is a contingency of wedding chapels whose couples show up with­out the requisite two witnesses; for example in the American film, “New Year's Eve” (2012), the minister's wife who plays the piano during the wedding ceremony also doubled as a witness. The situation would be some­what different had they wed at a court­house in a civil ceremony. There's a scene from the British film, “Lazy­bones” (1935) where an eloping couple neglects to bring with them a needed wit­ness, so they implore a gentle­man they grab off the street to act as one. He at first refuses but then figures the couple can always get divorced, so why not? Because of the necessity of preserving separation of church and state, a state institution performing a wedding ceremony cannot use any of its employees—cleaners, secretary, whom­ever—to act as a witness or else it would all fall to merely a state institution with­out the religious dimension. Here we don't see the ceremony proper, just the late (“I'm sorry; we've got couples queuing up”) arrival (“Sorry”) of the witnesses (“About bloody time”) as the registrar consults his pocket watch, with a church bell tolling the hour in the background.

At the end this movie offers a parallel by means of a trial. The sympathies of the judge are with the state function of accepting the soldier's weapon to be relinquished while he is on leave, any brandishing of it among civilians being given an instinctive sinister interpretation. The sympathy of the soldier's peers on the jury are more along the humane lines of considering the guy having fought for us comes home to find his wife screwing around, so perhaps we should give him a pass if he lets off some steam. This is a great lesson for a society that wants to expand the margins of love (i.e. “The Edge of …”) by means of, say, a top civil authority moving the lines of what can be included in marriage to include what the local community would never put up with. The timing of “The Edge of Love” (2008) coming out about the time the high courts decided to start allowing same-sex marriage even in jurisdictions where the locals voted against it and didn't want it, might make one wonder if we'd see the same result at a trial involving a pair of poofs or Lesbians misbehaving. Would a jury be as sympathetic just because they had that piece of paper?

The reason for the delay was the couple's friends had stopped somewhere to purchase a head-covering for the bride to wear. A woman's head-covering represents her submission to the authority (“power”) of her husband, a female's domesticity being a disin­centive to marry in their bohemian society. This movie toys with head coverings throughout, from the “gardenias in her hair” of a “native maiden” in the opening song, to Caitlin draping tights over her head and playing the mermaid in a gay bathtub scene, to the police officer pressing down on Capt. Williams's head as he puts him into the squad car. The movie, “Wings of Desire” (1987), explored the significance of, (1Cor. 11:10) “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” Angels are normally invisible, so in this movie we don't see them, just one scene of billowing parachutes coming down over Greece to remind us there's stuff happening from up there in the air, and that William did survive the hostilities, which was Vera's chief concern, William and their child Gowan being her “whole life.

Production Values

This movie, “The Edge of Love” (2008) was directed by John Maybury. Its screen­writer was Shar­man Mac­donald (Knightley's mother), its idea formed by Rebekah Gilbert­son. It stars Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Matthew Rhys, and Cillian Murphy. The performance of Sienna Miller is particularly noteworthy.

MPAA rated it R for some sexuality, language and disturbing war images. This movie was lovely to look at, wondrously written and amazingly acted.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

It's easy to get engaged in this film of adults acting like adults. It depicts one episode of a famous poet's life, with a fair amount of license taken with the history. It has the feel of a play with war footage thrown in. It's a good movie that should appeal to adult tastes.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism
  in the Flood Story and its Writing
. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.