The film centres on the residents of a small, idyllic Welsh town Llareggub (best read backwards…) poetically sharing their stories. The audience’s introduction begins with an invitation into their dreams. It’s a narrative that isn’t particularly straightforward, owing to the pure brilliance of Dylan Thomas’ words. Instead the story interchanges between the thoughts (and dreams) of the towns folk.
There’s no doubt that the film relies on the aesthetics in order to make sense of the narrative – seen more as a collection of stories rather than an easily comprehensible narrative – a challenge that Allen was clearly aware of. Yet he masters it beautifully, bringing this wonderful ‘dream like’ glow to each scene. There’s an innate vividness amongst the soft focus feel that is captivating to the audience, the bright colours bringing each detail to life.
Another triumph for Allen is that Under Milk Wood is accessible to a wide audience – rather than being pinpointed towards a small group of Dylan Thomas literary fans. In saying that it’s highly likely to become a cult classic much like his previous film Twin Towns. The accessibility comes in the form of the fun and addictive liveliness that he brings to the screen both in terms of the visuals, characters and performances.
The cast is one of immeasurable talent, with exceptional efforts from all. A particular stand out scene is when Ogmore Pritchard’s (Buddug Verona James) dreams involving Mr Ogmore (Rhodri Meilir) and Mr Pritchard (Carwyn Glyn). Rhys Ifans is nothing short of superb, taking on the lead role of the wildly eccentric Captain Cat. He brings a brilliantly wild yet endearing madness to the role whilst Charlotte Church is a revelation as the towns’ leading lady Polly Garter. (Interestingly she was previously in the 2014 BBC Wales production of Under Milk Wood instead playing Ogmore Pritchard.) She also gets the chance to show off her vocals wonderfully in both an operatic and more contemporary fashion.
Speaking of music, Allen uses this perfectly in sync with the narrative to accentuate the story and the characters. Particularly in the opening and closing scenes there’s almost a haunting quality to the music that adds a depth to the film, proving that music is equally as important as the aesthetics and the spoken word.
If the film falters at all, it’s purely contained to the coherence of the narrative and the length of the opening establishing scenes. It takes a little while until the audience is introduced to the pure brilliance of Allen and his work and there’s the possibility it could lose some of the audience before they’ve been enthralled. That said, this film is an absolute riot, a perfect balance between fun and frivolous. An absolute must see.
- Dan Y Wenallt (The film in Welsh audio) – Regardless of whether or not you speak Welsh – a must watch.
- Making Of: As it says on the tin, The Making of Under Milk Wood. It provides the back story to Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and an interesting insight into the making of – particularly recording the music.
Review by Charlotte Birch
Under Milk Wood is out to buy from the 16th November.