Kill Your Darlings Review

Kill Your Darlings

I used to think life was the opposite of death.

Now, I’m not so sure.

For Allen Ginsberg, life didn’t really begin until he got into Columbia University.

Son to a successful poet as well as a mother with a far less successful grasp on reality, young Ginsberg yearns for the freedom to experiment and express himself far from the maddening crowd of his suffocating family home.

And that’s exactly what Columbia offers this wide eyed Jewish kid, as well as a lot more besides in the seductive shape and form of fellow literary student Lucien Carr.

Now Carr is a bit of a fire-starter, pulling pranks in the revered university library, mocking traditional ways of writing as well as those established laws on which substances are legal and illegal in the state of New York.

In short, he’s exactly the kind of corrupting and intoxicating influence Ginsberg’s been yearning for.

Of course, a man like Lucien is an attractive proposition to more than just our Ginnsy, so it’s no surprise when we discover that Allen’s not the only one who’s desperate to be the object of Carr’s desire.

As Lucien opens Ginsberg’s world to the chaotic yet beautiful possibilities that come with experimenting in this life, as well as introducing him to fellow literary brothers in arms William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, our iconic poet in waiting experiences a few things he never wished for.

Kill Your Darlings is this year’s new beat era film, but this take on this generation of poets and beatniks manages to keep things fresh by starting at the beginning.

Set before any of these now legendary creative forces had conjured their most famous works, director and co-writer John Krokidas’ film covers the early years of Allen Ginsberg and friends as they set about their own journeys to discovering their individual literary voices.

But that’s not even half the story of Kill Your Darlings, which is as much about the life of David Kammerer as the beginnings of the most famous beat writers of that time.

Kill Your Darlings

And in the interests of cinematic intrigue, I’ll leave you to discover Kammerer’s story for yourself.

Daniel Radcliffe, the boy formerly known as Potter, plays the starring role of Ginsberg and, unexpectedly from those wizard days of yore, he’s damn good in it too.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Radcliffe these days; from the roles he’s chosen since coming of age as an actor, his increasingly skilled performances on stage and set as well as the way he handles himself during a question and answer session he gave at the screening of this film.

The rest of Kill Your Darlings cast is equally impressive, from the always excellent Ben Foster as Burroughs, Jack Huston as a charismatic Kerouac, Elizabeth Olsen as the wide eyed object of Jack’s affection, and Michael C Hall as the increasingly desperate and rejected Kammerer.

Then there’s Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, who probably has the most difficult role to pull off in Krokidas’ tale; but, as with everything else I’ve seen him in, the boy DeHaan effortlessly becomes the most watchable thing about Kill Your Darlings.

There are a couple of things that don’t work for me, most notably the odd inclusion of tracks from both Bloc Party and TV On The Radio in a beat era flick, but Kill Your Darlings is both engaging and shines a light on the murky origins in one of american literature’s greatest chapters.

As for the opposite of death, these days I’m pretty sure that’s love and not life.

I guess having your darling killed has a way of teaching you this.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

December 2013