This is a film about the tangled love life of Dylan Thomas, although you wouldn’t know it from the title. It conjures up those pink-covered Mills & Boon romantic novelettes — “she stood quivering on the edge of love, before his manly arms dragged her in!” — which used to be scattered around doctors’ waiting rooms. It’s a title which is hedging its bets, maybe even avoiding the fact that the film’s central character is that most uncommercial of heroes, a Welsh poet.
Fair enough; we might have had the less inhibited Shakespeare In Love, but the producers here must have thought that younger audiences would be drawn into, say, Dylan in Love on the mistaken assumption that it was about something blowin’ in the wind or, worse, an adult sequel to The Magic Roundabout. Thomas, who died in 1953 aged just 39, might well have been an iconic figure for generations who grew up hearing his broadcasts on the BBC, but he is no longer a fashionable literary name.
Film treatments of famous lives are, after a lull, proving popular at present, reflecting the increasingly biographical way in which we now look at history and the world around us. This presents few problems when it comes to visual artists; the audience can at least view the results of the agony and the ecstasy. If permission to show the actual work in the film is refused, as it was with Love is the Devil, which explored the affair between Francis Bacon and George Dyer, a really talented director can use his cameras to get round the problem. John Maybury was the man behind that film, and he managed to use cinematic smoke and mirrors to create a startling sense of Bacon’s twisted visions.