Shortly after his wedding, rising English poet Ted Hughes is shown giving a lecture. His American wife, fellow writer Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar), enters the room just as he's quoting a telling line of verse by W.B. Yeats: "And with you came the whole of the world's tears." The words ring sadly true, both for their doomed marriage and this downer of a biographical movie. It's not as if the ending—Plath killed herself at 30 in 1963 by sticking her head in the gas oven of her London flat—is ever in doubt.
Sylvia, sympathetically directed by Christine Jeffs (Rain), concentrates on the seven troubled years that Hughes (Craig), England's future poet laureate, and Plath (Paltrow) spent together. The film, almost frustratingly, doesn't take sides in their squabbling. Both are shown to have their reasons. Hughes makes an effort, at least at first, but Plath, aching endlessly for the father who died when she was 9, is never going to be happy for long. Paltrow, wearing frowsy wigs and moping most of the time, misses here, never quite connecting with the role. (R)