ByBen Smith, writer at
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Ben Smith

Originally posted on SHELF HEROES.

Impassioned 1940s-set drama following the early college life of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), a boy who would become one of America’s most important and successful poets. From an orthodox background, Allen falls in with the free-spirited Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) in his first weeks at Columbia University and becomes part of a hedonistic world of drink, drugs and the beauty of free flowing language. Rebelling against a system of structured prose and rules, Ginsberg, Carr, William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and former naval man Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) form the ‘New Vision'. However, as they become swept up in the danger and excitement of subverting the establishment the suffocating presence of Lucien’s friend David Kammerer (Michael C Hall) threatens to challenge all their work, a situation which escalates with such ferocity one of them is discovered brutally murdered.

‘Kill Your Darlings’ is mainly about the adolescent transition of Ginsberg and his journey of self discovery, kickstarted by the enigmatic, intense appearance of Carr. But it’s their relationship that is the film’s real beating heart, and astounding performances from Radcliffe and DeHaan make their chemistry pulsate from the screen. DeHaan in particular is awe-inspiring, a young man in possession of a steely presence and glacial blue eyes that seem to slow time to allow his metrical speech to deeply resonate. Beneath the overt bravado there is undoubtedly a vulnerability that even Carr can’t hide from himself, and all of this depth and internal conflict is subtly communicated by DeHaan. This is a punky, energetic experience with a tangible sweaty feeling of youth and danger. It may be a subtle study of adolescence and beauty, but it’s hot riotous fun while doing it. Employing the rhythm and artistry of a piece of freeform jazz the film may appear chaotic. In fact it is incredibly technically sound and expertly paced, with the tone of a thriller to keep events moving and compelling, although never skimping on the wonderfully rounded cast of characters. For large portions it crosses over into more traditional thriller territory as the boys face the ominous presence of Kammerer, and by virtue of such fantastic characterisation these moments feel all the more emotionally-charged and tense.

Taking what could conceivably be a small, formulaic story, director John Krokidas has created a multi-layered film that explores the pains of self-discovery, the founding of the beat generation and the mysteries of love, shaping it into a vibrant, accessible experience. A subversive take on the period and subject, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ is a passionate, intoxicating ride through the hearts and minds of a group of young men who would change literature and the arts for ever.



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