Critics Consensus

This biopic about Sylvia Plath doesn't rise above the level of highbrow melodrama.



Total Count: 130


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,422
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Movie Info

The life of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath -- one of the most celebrated literary figures of her generation -- is brought to the screen in this controversial screen adaptation. Born in Boston, MA, in 1932, Plath (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) developed a precocious talent as a writer and published her first poem when she was only eight years old. That same year, tragedy introduced itself into her life as Plath was forced to confront the unexpected death of her father. In 1950, she began studying at Smith College on a literary scholarship, and while she was an outstanding student, she also began suffering from bouts of extreme depression; following her junior year, she attempted suicide for the first time. Plath survived, and, in 1955, she was granted a Fulbright Scholarship to study in England at Cambridge. While in Great Britain, Plath met Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig), a respected author who would later become the British Poet Laureate; the two fell in love, and married in 1958. However, marriage, family, and a growing reputation as an important poet failed to bring Plath happiness, and as she became increasingly fascinated with death in her later poetry and her sole novel, The Bell Jar, and after Hughes left her for another woman, her depression went into a tailspin from which she would never fully recover. Sylvia was adapted in part from Birthday Letters, a collection of poems Ted Hughes published in 1998, in which he dealt with his marriage to Plath in print for the first time. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Gwyneth Paltrow
as Sylvia Plath
Daniel Craig
as Ted Hughes
Jared Harris
as Al Alvarez
Blythe Danner
as Aurelia Plath
Michael Gambon
as Professor Thomas
Amira Casar
as Assia Wevill
Andrew Havill
as David Wevill
Liddy Holloway
as Martha Bergstrom
David Birkin
as Morecambe
Alison Bruce
as Elizabeth
Julian Firth
as James Michie
Jeremy Fowlds
as Mr. Robinson
Michael Mears
as Charles Langridge
Antony Strachan
as Michael Boddy
Katherine Tozer
as Myra Norris
Sam Troughton
as Tom Hadley-Clarke
Hannah Watkins
as Tom's Girlfriend
Siobhan Page
as Young American Girl Student
Sarah Guyler
as Ted's Cambridge Girlfriend
Sonia Ritter
as Midwife
Robyn Malcolm
as 1st Woman at Ted Hughes' Lecture
Tandi Wright
as 2nd Woman at Ted Hughes' Lecture
Theresa Healey
as 3rd Woman at Ted Hughes' Lecture
Billie Seymour
as Telegram Boy
Ben Want
as Baby Nicholas
Joel Want
as Baby Nicholas
Eliza Wade
as Infant Frieda
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Critic Reviews for Sylvia

All Critics (130) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (82)

Audience Reviews for Sylvia

  • May 24, 2011
    The infamous relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes is far, far less interesting than that of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald and never has it been more apparent than in Jeff's dull, languid, uninteresting in every way it should've been interesting, film that prods along like a poorly written Robert Yates styled marriage conflict. It appears the only purpose of this film was to give the overrated Paltrow a complex femme fatale to play to win an Oscar. I wonder what Plath's poem concerning this film would go like had she not shoved her head in an oven like you'd be better off doing than sitting through 'Sylvia'.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 23, 2011
    The bio-pic of Sylvia Plath, an American acclaimed poet/author whose manic depressive state led to her successful suicide (not a spoiler) after several failed attempts but not before her stormy marriage to the equally successful British poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) who attempted to quell her suspicious mind despite his weaknesses which included womanizing. Gwyneth Paltrow does a good job of portraying Sylvia Plath capturing her pain and dark, depressive state after her shattered relationship to Hughes ultimately causes her suicidal tendencies to resurface. She portrays Sylvia's mental problems, her bouts of insecurities and heartbreak well. In the end I believe Hughes was remorseful for his actions and kept Plath's poetry alive by compiling her work which was later published in subsequent years. My thoughts: it seems to me that Sylvia's troubles triggered from the moment she lost her father, at the tender age of 9 and progressed through the tremulous love hate relationship between herself and mom which led to her first famous suicide attempt. After her marriage to Hughes, she finds herself struggling to write as she balances home life with working as a teacher. Things are made worse when she has kids and succumbs to the mental anguish that is tormenting her. As the pressures of family and children grew, so did Sylvia's mistrust of Ted and paranoia over his behavior. Her dark, inward rage spiraled out of control culminating in her ending her life. A dismal little film that might have ended differently had anyone realized she was mentally ill and needed treatment for her depression.
    Deb S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 13, 2010
    This movie was very interesting. It was a bit dry at points, but was so intriguing that it kept my complete attention. The psychology of the two main characters was amazing, and the movie was done brilliantly. Also, seeing Paltrow in a new role like this was phenomenal, and very surprising. I think that she did a wonderful job depicting this very, very sad woman. Kudos!
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2010
    A very tender and dark little biopic that skims the surface of the sensitive and prolific poet and author Sylvia Plath. The film itself was bleak, wounding around the life of Plath, but more than anything also focused on her lover and husband Ted Hughes. Everything is dark angles and gilt mirrors with the poignant performance from lead Gwyneth Paltrow. She is yet again playing a British woman in a destructive relationship, except there is definitely a power play between herself and her husband. Both are poets, both want to be taken seriously, and both have the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. In the film Paltrow showcases Plath's irrelevancy next to her husband's broad fame among the intellectuals and middle class alike. He is dashingly handsome, and ends up romancing many of their female acquaintances, which only drives Plath madder than she already is as a result. Worse, is that he retains the fame whilst she is still struggling to write anything at all. She feels dwarfed in his huge shadow, and the film does a great job of illustrating how isolated Plath was by making her seem small among the darkness of the cinematography. There is little to no light in this entire film. Both Paltrow and her leading man, Daniel Craig, are entirely enshrouded in shadow throughout this film, even when it's supposed to be day. When the sun shines, it's bleak and oppressive,which was highly unrealistic, and gave us the feeling that Plath must have gone through a period of listless hatred, even in the company of her two children. Her erratic behavior lent little in the film, except for the brief scene in the beginning, but she does confide her feelings to an ardent supporter, played by the great character actor Jared Harris. What doesn't work in this film is that there isn't any buildup to Plath's suicide. The ending feels anticlimactic, mostly because her husband isn't assigned any dimensions except that of a vicarious jerk. He flits in and out of the story, only to give her children and make her miserable, but at the end he's only a face in the crowd of onlookers. There was nothing traumatic about this film, nothing to cling to Plath as a person, or the ideals of her work. There just could have been so much more done with the script and the way it was shot, and that really was just underwhelming for me as a viewer.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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