This will be rough and tumbly, as I've just watched the film under less-than-ideal (ahem) circumstances. Let me say first off that I feel sorry for fans of Dylan Thomas: Matthew Rhys is charming beneath his mop of dark curls, his eyes twinkle with mischief, and his expressive voice lends itself well to what few lines of Thomas's poetry he recites, but Dylan Thomas as a character in this film is such an abominable wastrel and a cad that at best he's Satan with a pot-belly and a Welsh accent.
Apologies, too, for this being all over the map. What doesn't work about the film, or seems to work against the filmmakers' intent: Dylan the cad, as above noted. Then the "friendship" between Caitlin Thomas and Vera Phillips, which seems pasted into the film from a photoshoot of Forties style between Sienna Miller (Irish accent off-and-on, and perpetually atrocious) and Keira Knightley (in full shrill-and-brittle mode, right up until the last twenty minutes). In declaring herself "an independent woman" to her admirer and future husband William Killick (Cillian Murphy, and more on him below), she seems to be speaking-- abrasively-- from some future era of organized feminism, a young woman of the Sixties dropped into the Blitz. In film time, Killick's patience with her outlasted mine by about an hour and ten minutes.
Other unworkables: A most unconvincing Blitz. I know that the war isn't the focus of the film, and they had to be shooting on a tight budget, but the grainy newsreel bits just don't cut it. (Nor, especially, does a flashback sequence toward the end, shot to look like an old home movie-- and where, I wondered, did they get the color film stock for those home movies when color film was being rationed even to the major studios?-- which comes off as saccharine and desperate.) Killick, waging war in a Greece that looks exactly like the shale quarry used in any thousand old Doctor Who episodes, doesn't fare much better, but the shock and resolute terror in Murphy's extraordinary blue eyes lend a jarring reality to the material.
Another shortfall: There's no story, really, no arc. There's a dramatic "bump" in the last reel, but all in all it's the rambling tale of two ostensibly despicable people (those being Dylan and Caitlin) who sponge off a truly decent person (poor Bill Killick) through the medium of a person who ought to know better, and who may or may not deserve to profit from the lesson she learns about love and fidelity en route (that, of course, being Vera).
A final grumble, and one that might sound perverse: if those involved in a production feel uncomfortable about staging intimate scenes, might we please return to the dignified days of the discreet fade-out? Not that simulated intercourse isn't ever less than awkward on screen, but if you must resort to shooting a love scene in a way that makes it seem as if we're watching the participants-- here Vera and William-- through a kaleidoscope, then please: cut the scene or call for a rewrite.
What works: The film looks good, in a can-do Masterpiece Theatre way. The Welsh coast is stunning and bleak, all misty light. Keira Knightley's singing voice is surprisingly sweet (which gives one hope that she won't do too great a disservice to "My Fair Lady"). Ms. Knightley herself, despite her prickly defensiveness in the film's early scenes, exhibits a quiet strength and maturity toward the end: a new thing for her, and most refreshing.
But the show belongs to Cillian Murphy. I think this is his best role to date. From the dashing romanticism of Killick in the film's early scenes to the battle-stunned soldier-come-home later on, he brings true shading and subtlety to the film. More importantly, he brings humanity. Dylan sweet-talks most effectively (he's a writer, after all), but the poetry of the film lies in William. He's the angel to Thomas's demon, and without him "The Edge of Love" would be a sad, bitter, ultimately pointless affair.