September 16, 2022
Greetings again from the darkness. Twins often have their own language or way of communicating. However, sisters June and Jennifer Gibbons of Wales took this to a new level, creating a mysterious dark connection that no one else every understood. Andrea Siegel has adapted the screenplay from Marjorie Wallace’s book, and Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska (THE LURE 2015) delivers the style and creep factor, while missing out on answering the questions raised with the story.
The young sisters are seen giving a fake radio broadcast, and we get a glimpse of their awkward behavior during childhood … behavior that left their parents and siblings feeling helpless. Letitia Wright (BLACK PANTHER, 2018) and Tamara Lawrance (KINDRED, 2020) take over as teenage June and Jennifer, respectively. While the young ones are well cast, it’s the work of Ms. Wright and Ms. Lawrance that keep this one watchable despite the meandering. The awkward behavior of adolescents evolves into bizarre behavior of teens, and ultimately criminal behavior and some type of mental illness.
Pure elation of a new typewriter is all too quickly erased by irritation and anger that leads to fighting, or worse. Director Smoczynska does well to use stop motion animation periodically in helping to explain what’s happening with the two girls. Child psychologists have no luck breaking through and the sisters are ultimately separated and locked away at Broadmoor psychiatric hospital by age 19. By this time, it’s difficult not to view them as psychopaths.
It’s interesting to watch as these two survive on the fringes of society in near mental isolation, and use writing as a creative outlet to unleash their inner thoughts. We never really know if we should have empathy for the girls, and that becomes even more difficult given their later behavior. Journalist Marjorie Wallace (played here by Jodhi May) documented her interactions with the sisters, but we can’t help but wonder if this story is better told in documentary form – despite the strong work from Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance.
Opens in theaters on September 16, 2022
WATCH THE TRAILER
May 18, 2017
Dallas International Film Festival 2017
Greetings again from the darkness. We open on a young woman standing strong during a critical moment at seminary school. It’s kind of a clunky start in an overly-dramatic and stagey sense for the film, but Emma Bell sets the standard for the future behavior of Emily Dickinson. What follows is a period drama with minimal costuming effects, but rather a fitting onslaught of language and words – most of which comes courtesy of Ms. Dickinson and her mighty pen.
I’ve often viewed Emily Dickinson as an early feminist whose beliefs and intentions were stifled by the era in which lived, as well as the depression that seemed to cloak most of her days. She was definitely an odd/unusual person and clearly stood for women’s equality at a time when her own poems were published anonymously to avoid scandal and backlash for the paper. Writer/director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea, 2011) shows interest in glamorizing neither the times nor the writer, and Cynthia Nixon seizes the opportunity to capture the essence of a gifted woman who at best, could be described as a societal misfit and a genius.
The terrific cast also includes Keith Carradine as Emily’s proud father, Jennifer Ehle as her (yin-yang) sister Vinnie, and Duncan Duff as brother Austin. Emily’s rare forays beyond familial boundaries are mostly via garden strolls with her wise-cracking friend Miss Buffum, played with zeal by Catherine Bailey. There is also a tremendous 3:00am scene between Emily and her sister-in-law Susan (Jodhi May), which provides the best possible self-analysis by Ms. Dickinson (outside of her writings). She confesses to her new family member, “You have a life, I have a routine.” This insightful line seems to carry no sadness for Emily.
The first third of the film features some low-key zingers that rival anything from Whit Stillman’s superb Love & Friendship, though the balance of the film takes a turn towards the serious and somber while focusing more on Faith and Death and Emily’s controversial stances. She embraces the label of “no-hoper” and continues on with her observations of a life she barely leads. While the language and words are the stars here (along with Ms. Nixon), there is a very cool effect as the characters seamlessly age before our eyes in a series of portrait poses, vaulting the timeline headfirst into Emily’s descent into self-imposed isolation. It’s a very well done biopic that requires your ears be in prime form.
Ms. Dickinson died in 1866 at the age of 55, and the film helps us understand that the contradictions and confusion associated with religion does not solely belong to our modern times. This might best be explained when Emily’s aunt wins an argument by proclaiming that “hymns aren’t music”. Mr. Davies delivers a small film that is large in thought and beautiful in look.
watch the trailer: