“Set Fire To The Stars” is a 2014 drama film, directed by Andy Goddard.
Partly biographical, the film spans a few days in 1950 when aspiring New York poet and creative writing college professor John M. Brinnin (Elijah Wood – “Grand Piano”, “Lord Of The Rings”) persuades his bosses to allow him to bring over Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones – “Above Suspicion”) for his first reading tour.
Although they aren’t too convinced as Thomas already has a reputation as a hellraiser when drinking, the visit is agreed – though it’s clear that any comeback will be on Brinnin’s head. His friend Jack (Steven Mackintosh – “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels”) is tasked to help Brinnin keep everything running smoothly.
Early on it is established that Thomas attended a number of parties and functions throughout the tour and often got drunk and, on occasion, went out of his way to shock people.
What follows is a depiction primarily of the difficult relationship between Thomas and Brinnin, with the latter going from visibly excited super-fan to minder / nursemaid and taking Thomas out into the countryside to try to escape temptation. He is clearly looking after a troubled soul as well as a great talent, and this has a profound effect.
The film has plenty of Thomas’s poetry, and of people wanting to discuss and decipher his poetry, which is evidently a source of disgust and frustration for Thomas. Thomas also spends a great deal of the film avoiding having to open a letter that’s arrived from his wife, Caitlin (Kelly Reilly – “Eden Lake”, “Flight”), but when he does finally succumb the result is not what we might have expected.
I had practically no knowledge of Dylan Thomas’s life or work before watching this film, but that had no negative impact on my viewing and I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and felt that the performances of Jones and Wood were brilliantly delivered. Mackintosh also impressed in his supporting role, as did the ever-watchable Reilly – even though she didn’t make an appearance until the last quarter of the film.
Jones also co-wrote the screenplay with Goddard. The film was shot beautifully in black and white and, although set entirely in America was, incredibly, filmed in and around Swansea – and in just eighteen days! It’s a slow burning character piece and well worth viewing…