Set Fire to the Stars review – Dylan Thomas minus his unruly power

Dylan Thomas’s booze-sodden 1950 tour of the US is the basis for a slight but diverting tale

A boisterously rotund performance by co-writer/star Celyn Jones provides the heart of this slight but diverting tale of Dylan Thomas’s drink-sodden first tour of America in 1950, where aspiring poet and academic John M Brinnin (Elijah Wood) struggles to keep his unkempt charge on a respectable leash. Fuelled by booze, insecurity and egotistical self-pity, the Welsh legend alternately enthrals and appals all who fall into his circle – a splash of gaudy colour amid a buttoned-down, monochrome world (Downton Abbey graduate Andy Goddard opts for nostalgic black and white with handsome results). While the film never matches or captures the unruly power of its subject (Thomas’s poetry is recited but remains a distant voice), there are evocative moments – a late-night Connecticut session swapping ghost stories with an arch Shirley Henderson is a highlight. Gruff Rhys’s music adds textural melancholy, making this an intriguing double bill companion piece to American Interior.

Contributor

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

The GuardianTramp

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