BBC/Ruby Films

“Dying is an art. I do it exceptionally well.” This quote from the title character begins Sylvia, the 2003 British film recently released on DVD/VHS. An intimate portrait of the marriage between poet Sylvia Plath (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) and her poet husband Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig), the film chronicles their tempestuous union, fraught with jealousy, philandering and the rapid birth of two children. We witness Plath’s multiple frustrations—as a female poet in a male-dominated genre and as an isolated young mother and wife to a charming but unfaithful spouse—plunge her into darkness and a preoccupation with death. After merely three years of marriage, Plath (now separated and a single mom) was found dead, asphyxiated by cooking gas, in 1963, at the age of 30. This film is a serious and professional production, well acted by Paltrow and Craig, although a viewer unfamiliar with Plath’s work will gain little sense of her genius or ensuing literary influence. It mostly succeeds as a study in depression or as a resource for those interested in Plath’s life and is suggestive of the struggles faced by all creative women encumbered by the demands of traditional femininity.