"Love and work... work and love, that's all there is."
Sigmund Freud's life-itself quote comes to mind many a time during Vita & Virginia, the story of the relationship between authors Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, and how it inspired Woolf's classic Orlando.
Really, director Chanya Button's refined literary biopic about the chase and the catch has no business being in cinemas at the height of summer, but if you're looking for something away from the multiplex norm, or a break from the boxsets, it will inspire you to read more of/about both authors at its centre.
With Dublin doubling for 1920s London - job done - Button depicts how two trailblazers lit a fire in each other, on and off the page. Their romance plays out like chapters from a book.
Following on from her brilliant work in Widows, Elizabeth Debicki portrays Woolf and brings a haughty allure to the writer most famously played by Nicole Kidman in The Hours. Debicki takes the torch and makes the role her own. As Sackville-West, Arterton does good work moving from wide-eyed fandom to flinty pragmatism when the power dynamic changes.
In a bid to take Vita & Virginia away from genre convention, Button makes some interesting choices here, using an electronic score and, in one memorable scene, showing roots and vines growing over floorboards. The film needed more moments like that - and more Isabella Rossellini as Sackville-West's mother - because there is the feeling that there is still not enough drama in the story, as well-acted as it is.
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