One movie that opened nationwide recently is Tom & Viv, the true story of the tragic marriage of poet T.S. Eliot and his neurotic wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood. This film stars Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson. Not a Hollywood movie, one needs to know nothing about T.S. Eliot's poetry to see it, since it's more about his marriage than his work.
After a brief fling, Tom elopes with Viv, much to the shock of her family. From the beginning, the audience knows that Tom and Viv's was a match made in Hell. Tom's brother-in-law advised Tom to take extra special care of Viv. Even the honeymoon was a disaster when Viv had a fit and frantically trashed the hotel room. Viv was a challenge, indeed. Tom wasn't able to provide the adequate care that Viv required and deserved. She insisted that he quit his job at a bank in order to spend more time with his poetry and her. Viv was a devoted wife who helped him with his typing and even the poetry itself.
But, on the other hand, Viv's outrageous behavior and tantrums (like pouring melted chocolate into Tom's mailbox) were a huge burden to Tom. Her especially rude dinner party conversations were a hindrance to Tom's chances of gaining status in the literary world. Viv's anxious condition baffled her doctors, so they arbitrarily labeled her insane. Her "insanity" was actually a hormonal imbalance due to her unpredictable menstrual cycle and the prescription of the wrong medicine. This misdiagnosis led Viv to a mental hospital where she later died.
The movie does a great job in portraying the dilemmas that both husband and wife faced. Willem Dafoe, as Tom, gives an honest performance of a man who chose his career instead of submitting to the needs of his wife. But the real highlight of the movie is Miranda Richardson as Viv. Her performance is so outstanding it get her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Richardson portrays Viv as a woman the audience can feel sympathy for at the same time as they want to restrain her. Viv's antics are very amusing, but heart-breaking.
Tom & Viv is highly absorbing and interesting. It is certainly a cultural experience and very entertaining. My one complaint is that it isn't playing in more theaters. .
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.