Mixed or average reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 40
  2. Negative: 3 out of 40

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Critic Reviews

  1. This is the richest role Paltrow has had since ''Shakespeare in Love,'' and she rises to the challenge. She digs deep into Plath's mercurial nature, giving us a Sylvia who's fiercely independent and alive yet burdened with demons of insecurity that bubble up in a rage.
  2. Christine Jeffs has directed it with discretion and intimacy, almost a paradoxical privacy.
  3. 80
    The excellent cast is headed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the mood-shifting title role and Daniel Craig as the helpless, not-so-happily philandering Hughes.
  4. Reviewed by: June Howdel
    Though the sketchy narrative could do with a bit of filling out, and the settings could be less gloomy, this is a memorable interpretation that benefits enormously from sound casting decisions.
  5. Christine Jeffs's film is an emotionally rich biography of the poet Sylvia Plath, who is played with radiant conviction by Gwyneth Paltrow.
  6. As a film it's mostly top-notch work. Kiwi director Christine Jeffs has taken the poignant, thoughtful screenplay of erstwhile documentarian John Brownlow and rendered it a moving mood-piece of subtlety and ever-encroaching sorrow.
  7. 75
    For those who have read the poets and are curious about their lives, Sylvia provides illustrations for the biographies we carry in our minds.
  8. Sylvia the movie competently shows us how; but, as always, it's Sylvia the writer who brilliantly tells us why -- then, now and tomorrow, her foreboding words are her finest legacy.
  9. 75
    At heart, Sylvia is constructed as a psychological suspense film framed around the ambiguities of Hughes's infidelity and Plath's resulting paranoia. So at its strangest, the movie is a potboiler.
  10. Paltrow's performance in Sylvia doesn't have Oscar- worthy depth, but it's a solid, sincere portrayal that captures enough sides of Plath's complex personality to enrich the movie, directed with impressive visual power by New Zealand filmmaker Christine Jeffs.
  11. What Jeffs -- and Paltrow -- do capture is the shroud of tragedy that hovered over Plath.
  12. Despite an exceptional performance by Paltrow, whose Plath is a layer cake of infinite intelligence and bottomless need, Jeffs' film is an icy affair lacking the fever of Plath's and Hughes' poems.
  13. You can also see Sylvia without realizing she could be witty and bemused, qualities apparent in her posthumously published novel, "The Bell Jar." This book, which spoke to sensitive girls of the 1960s like few others, is mentioned once in passing in the film. We never see her writing it or learn what it means to her.
  14. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Doesn't shed much light on the fragile and enigmatic writer whose myth has nearly obscured the real woman.
  15. Paltrow does this role exceptionally well, but it is underwritten.

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