Sylvia (2003 film)

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Sylvia movie.jpg
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Produced by Alison Owen
Mary Richards
Written by John Brownlow
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
Daniel Craig
Jared Harris
Michael Gambon
Blythe Danner
Music by Gabriel Yared
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by Focus Features (United States)
Release dates
  • 17 October 2003 (2003-10-17) (United States)
  • 30 January 2004 (2004-01-30) (United Kingdom)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English

Sylvia is a 2003 British biographical drama film directed by Christine Jeffs and starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Jared Harris, and Michael Gambon. It tells the true story of the romance between prominent poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. The film begins with their meeting at Cambridge in 1956 and ends with Sylvia Plath's suicide in 1963.

Frieda Hughes, Sylvia and Ted's daughter, accused the filmmakers of profiting from her mother's death.[1]


Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1932, Plath developed a precocious talent as a writer, publishing 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 the University of Cambridge. While in Great Britain, Plath met Ted Hughes, a respected author, who would later become the British Poet Laureate. The two fell in love and married in 1956. Sylvia quickly learns that others are also enthralled with her husband, for a combination of his good looks, charisma, fame and success. Sylvia lives in her husband's professional shadow as she tries to eke out her own writing career, which doesn't come as naturally to her as it does to Ted. She also suspects him of chronic infidelity.

Marriage, family, and a growing reputation as an important poet nonetheless failed to bring Plath happiness. Hughes eventually leaves her for another woman, by which Sylvia is devastated. After Hughes left, Plath's depression went into a tailspin from which she never recovered. She killed herself at age 30. Plath became increasingly fascinated with death, a highly visible theme in her later poetry and her sole novel, The Bell Jar (1963).



Filming took place between October 2002 and February 2003. Much of the film was shot in and around the New Zealand city of Dunedin, with the University of Otago serving to represent Cambridge.


Sylvia received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 37% "rotten" approval rating from mainstream critics, giving the consensus, "This biopic about Sylvia Plath doesn't rise above the level of highbrow melodrama."[2] Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of a possible 4 stars, praising Paltrow and Craig's performances.[3] A.O. Scott, writing for The New York Times, also praised Paltrow's portrayal of Plath but wrote that, "The psychological dynamics of the marriage, unsettled by professional envy and sexual jealousy, are duly noted, but the film's emotions are too big, too untidy and too strange to be contained by its story."[4]


  1. ^ Wilson, Jamie (3 February 2003). "Frieda Hughes attacks BBC for film on Plath". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2007. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 24, 2003). "Sylvia Movie Review & Summary". Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Scott, A.O. (October 17, 2003). "FILM REVIEW; A Poet's Death, A Death's Poetry". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 June 2016. 

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