Terence Davies’ portrait of the reclusive 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson, played acutely well by Cynthia Nixon, may be the perfect match of filmmaker and subject. Even audiences unfamiliar with Davies’ autobiographical classics (Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes) will surely feel the sway of an intense identification.
“This subtly stylised account of the life of Emily Dickinson – from her departure from the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary to her death in her 50s – may initially surprise some with the irreverent, wickedly funny repartee that marks many of the early scenes depicting the young poet’s friendship with her outspoken friend Vryling Buffam. As time passes, however, and the older Emily falls prey to disappointment, doubt, loneliness, bitterness and illness, the mood gets steadily darker, taking us into territory familiar from Davies’ earliest work. Not quite naturalism, but a more profound realism focused on the inner life of the poet, it allows Davies not only to create a world that vividly complements the verse heard in voiceover on the soundtrack, but to explore themes that have long been central to his own worldview." - Geoff Andrew, Sight & Sound