It is hard to make a film truly engaging when faced with bringing true life to the big screen. The idea of murdering a spurned lover is such a common plot device, it is now overly used in bad ‘obsessive/doomed’ relationship stories that offer nothing fresh in terms of perspective. But the adaptation of the early lives of poet Allen Ginsberg, writer Jack Kerouac and the late Lucien Carr offers something more that is hidden behind its talented cast.
Kill Your Darlings retells how the naive Allan Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is befriended at Columbia University by the enigmatic Lucien Carr (DeHaan), who introduces him to the seedy, offbeat side of 1940s’ New York. As Carr becomes increasingly driven towards literary liberation, Ginsberg’s feelings grow conflicted, especially towards Lucien’s unstable lover David Kammerer (Michael C.Hall), culminating in a violent climax.
The roots of the ‘Beat Movement’ play second to the complex love triangle between Allen, David and Lucien. Rather than education and inspire, Kill Your Darlings feeds the suggestion that creative genus only comes from heartbreak, bitterness and drugs and that you will only be able to find your voice through a conservative world. The bohemian lifestyle looks exaggerated up to the point where its characters’ credibility is questioned – are they high all the time during their flashes of inspiration? Who knows.
Accompanying the disreputable underworld of New York comes John Krokidas’ direction. With certain scenes filtered like an Instagram shot, his method of storytelling blurs along the line of conflicted and surreal. Yet, he allows his cast to tell the story in his directorial debut through their expressions, which gives the film its ultimate saving grace.
The broody Radcliffe and charismatic DeHaan, whose clean-cut golden boy is reminiscent of The Talented Mr Ripley’s Jude Law, collectively shine in their performances, exuding their charm and maturity and avoiding being sidestepped by the dark subject matter. By the end of the film, the actors and characters alike have developed past their youthful exteriors.
Kill Your Darlings is an intellectual challenge that may have under-indulged in its history, but it is rescued by its sultry undertones and the stellar performances of DeHaan and Radcliffe.
Kill Your Darlings is out in UK cinemas on 6th December.
Director: John Krokidas
Writers: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall
Runtime: 104 min