‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ wrote the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who took his own words literally as he drank himself to death aged just 39. Despite acquiring a reputation, which he encouraged, as a ‘roistering, drunken and doomed poet’ he was still invited by a young literary critic and aspiring poet John Brinnin to America in 1946 for a lucrative Ivy League campus reading tour, beginning in New York City.
Brinnin thought that the honor of hosting such a literary giant was worth any trouble the alcoholic Welshman may possibly get into, but he soon discovered that he had seriously under-estimated him. When he fails to keep Thomas remotely sober even for his Readings he hauls him off to a remote log cabin in Connecticut so that he can dry out and prepare for his next speaking engagement at Harvard.
This very-low budget biopic stylised in black and white is an affectionate tribute of this larger-than-life man in what turned out to be a dress rehearsal for early his death. (He died touring America again just seven years later). Thomas is played withe great aplomb by Welsh TV actor Celyn Jones who uncannily looked like the great man. As however the producers had somehow snared Hollywood star Elijah Wood to play Brinnin the focus of the movie was also very much about how Thomas’s outrageous behavior affected him.
Co-written by Jones with director Andy Goddard they not only managed to shoot the whole thing in 18 days but never stirred from Swansea throughout the whole time. Who knew it could ever be made to look like mid-century New York!
Its a delightful art-house film filled with some beautiful readings of Thomas’s work which never fail to delight. The movie may not set fire to anything at all and it may want you to stop drinking for a stanza or two, but its still quite a compelling view.
P.S. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ was used as the text for the 1954 In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (Dirge-Canons and Song) by Igor Stravinsky.