Wild Nights With Emily

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Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!


Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!


Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee!


— Emily Dickinson.


One of a handful of things this movie needed was a bit more of Dickinson’s lovely poetry. Instead, we mostly see love letters that she writes to her childhood BFF Susan, who has become her sister-in-law, as well as her lover. They live in Victorian houses next to each other in Amherst, Massachusetts in the mid-1800s.

Dickinson is played by former Saturday Night Live cast member Molly Shannon (who was great in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).

It’s interesting that filmmaker Madeleine Olnek (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, The Foxy Merkins) was given access to all of Dickinson’s original manuscripts by Harvard University Press.

Usually I frown upon hysterical films that speculate and fictionalize on how characters behaved. Yet it’s safe to say, this film is probably more accurate than the spinster Dickinson we were taught about in middle school.

Dickinson was a bit of a recluse, and so it was surprising how the film was able to sprinkle in some humorous moments. It gives it all a whimsical and playful vibe. It’s just a shame that it’s also a bit dull at times.

Emily’s younger sister Lavinia entertained the people that wanted to meet the poet. She would eventually discover close to 2,000 poems after her sister’s death. It’s baffling to think how few were published while she was alive. It’s ranks up there with Van Gogh never selling a painting during his lifetime.

It was also fun watching the kids interact with aunt Emily, and realizing they probably knew a lot more about the relationship between the two women.

I caught this movie at the San Diego International Film Festival last year, and the slow pacing wasn’t helped by the fact that I saw it earlier in the morning. Even though my wife and I were bored at times, these are the types of movies I enjoy seeing at film festivals, because often times, it’s your only chance to see them on the big screen.

If you missed it at the Festival, you have a chance to see it this weekend.

I started the review with the poem Wild Nights. I’ll end it with the song of the same name, by another of my favorite writers, Van Morrison:

And everything looks so complete/When you’re walking out on the streets

And the wind, it catches your feet

Sets you flying


A wild night is calling.


And if you feel this movie is calling to you, you can check it out at the Angelika Film Center

2 stars out of 5.

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