I put the movie Sylvia in my DVD player with trepidation. I knew I wasn’t in for a laugh-fest, but I’m compulsive about watching movies that depict the writing process, so I soldiered on. The movie turned out to be quite good, and depressing as hell.
Gwyneth Paltrow does an agonizingly superb job of portraying a disturbed, gifted and depressed Sylvia Plath as she confronts her personal, literary and relationship demons. At one point in the story, she goes to a seacoast retreat with husband Ted Hughes, so they both can write. Ted immediately begins banging out the pages (it turns out later that he was banging more than his typewriter) while Sylvia avoids writing and spends her time baking goodies.
There are some good writer’s block scenes at this juncture in the movie, and we see glimpses of the common relationship stress that a fiesty writer’s block can spawn. We also see how emotional disturbances can both inspire excellent writing as well as stop the flow of writing completely.
Going to the movies would be boring if all the stories had happy endings. Sylvia makes sure you won’t be bored in that way.