SXSW 2018 Review: WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

For many years after her death, poet Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) was believed to be a lonely, reclusive spinster who didn’t have much of a life outside of her writing.  This film hopes to help dispel this widely spread myth that began not long after the poet’s passing.  Written and directed by Madeleine Olnek, Wild Nights With Emily reveals the real life that Emily was not so afraid to live.

Ever since Emily was a young lady, she knew that she fancied women more than men.  In those years, she falls in love with her future sister-in-law Susan (Sasha Frolov).  This relationship would continue (with its ups and downs) even after the adult Susan (Susan Ziegler) remained married to Emily’s brother Austin (Kevin Seal).  Emily’s lust for life and passion for love would fuel her writings, but getting published would remain a major challenge until her death.  An opportunist in the form of Austin Dickinson’s lover Mabel (Amy Seimetz) would eventually get Emily’s work published, but under the false pretenses which covered up Emily’s real life.

Madeleine Olnek has created a delightful and timely comedy which deals with the closeted life of Emily Dickinson and how her secrets would have to remain unrevealed for so long.  Molly Shannon impresses with a role that juggles a little bit of drama, grace, and subtle comedy.  I also was really impressed with Amy Seimetz who is fantastic as the nosey opportunist Mabel.  It is a movie that fans of both comedy and Emily Dickinson are sure to enjoy.

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