Partly filmed in the beautiful English Lake District, this intriguing film concentrates on the relationship between Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (Linus Roache), and fellow poet William Wordsworth (John Hannah).
The inner demons of Coleridge, especially, take the viewer to another place, a Bohemian utopia, and a place of `goats, apple trees and a place to sit and write poetry` forever more. This film concentrates on a group of people who were part of the original English anti-establishment of the 18th century. Obsessed with their own creative abilities, politics and the science of their age, they each take on their own role which blends into one, until ultimately it all falls apart.
Commencing with Coleridge being treated for his opium addiction, this film immediately gives an insight into the mind of this famous poet and continues to show the individual psychological states of both Coleridge and Wordsworth throughout. Wordsworth strives to be a success, needing to be adored by all, but he keeps his dignity and pride, where Coleridge slowly destroys himself with his addiction and loses his grip on reality. Roache gives us an entertaining performance for all his character’s inner turmoil and lack of self control where as Hannah as Wordsworth portrays his character as the more grounded of the two but with his own demons and a potential for betraying those closest to him.
This production is full of historical characters and it is astonishing the way Wordsworth`s sister, the outspoken Dorothy (Emily Woof) becomes the focus of our attention for much of the film with her over sensitive and sometimes erratic ways which contribute to the intensity of the production. Her possessiveness of Wordsworth is quite unnerving, especially when her feelings for him are precipitated. They can not live without each other that is obvious, Wordsworth for his part needs her and her encouragement for him to succeed, while she needs to be there for him to comfort him in his insecurity and depression.
Dorothy’s obsessive love moves towards Coleridge. He is happy with the homely and child bearing Sara (Samantha Morton) but yearning for the empathy he feels with spinster Dorothy is in between worlds. He craves both the security of family life but with the excitement of the meeting of minds with his soul mate. Not being able to be with Coleridge fully is distressing enough but the pain of Dorothy is obvious when she is introduced to Wordsworth’s future wife, Mary; (Emma Fielding), this is like a knife in the heart for the clinging Dorothy. Woof is especially impressive in her role and it is hard to decide whether we like her or loath her character or some may merely see her as a character of pity because of her emotional outbursts.
It becomes dramatic when conflict between the four characters keeps unfolding throughout the film, but more importantly is the building tension that Wordsworth is frustrated that he cannot keep up with the talent of Coleridge, even though both are capable of expressing themselves through their work; it is Coleridge who initially excels himself, much to the distress and anger of Wordsworth.
Our sympathies often lie with the nurturing Sara, as the relationship between her husband and Wordsworth declines further she feels the brunt of the pain as Coleridge takes to opium and in his insanity and he becomes uncommunicative with the outside world. Only Dorothy can get into the mind of this tormented genius. Coleridge is so far away from her Sara lets her anger for Dorothy subside accepting that letting her near Coleridge, getting into his mind, is the only remedy.
A heart wrenching second half as the self abuse of certain characters both shock and sadden all who ultimately become engrossed in this story. This film is a must for those who want something different from the usual artistic film which drags its feet. With a superb voiceover rendition of `The tale of the ancient mariner` it is for lovers of classic literature but also for those who love a good storyline. It presents us with surreal characters and even more surreal film imagery which attempts to bring us back into our world, a world we understand, a world predicted by the genius that was Samuel Coleridge.