Tom And Viv
Tom (Willem Defoe) is the American poet, T. S. Eliot, and Viv (Miranda Richardson) is Vivienne Haighwood, his English wife. The film is really about Viv, spanning the years from 1915, when she met Eliot while he was a philosophy student at Oxford, until her death in 1947. The free-spirited, wealthy and beautiful Viv wants to shatter the cardinal rule of their society: Keep up appearances at any cost. Perhaps she expects an aspiring poet will share that hope. Her hopes are soon shattered as Tom becomes puzzled by his bride’s frequent bizarre behavior. This is further complicated by the fact that Viv suffers from “women’s problems” that are considered unmentionable, even by the doctors. As Tom gains recognition as a poet, Viv becomes more isolated. The tragic consequences of a free spirit suffocated by a suppressed society is heart-wrenching. T. S. Eliot fans curious about what motivated his writing will be fascinated by this film. He says, “Poetry is not an expression of emotion, but an escape from emotion.” Other viewers may appreciate the beautiful English countryside and a revealing glimpse into the mores of the wealthy English 60 years ago.
While this thought-provoking movie has very little offensive material, there is little life-affirming material either. Tom is faithful to Viv and says he loves her; he also turns to the church for solace. On the other hand, he is a cold, uncommunicative intellectual who puts Viv in an insane asylum and never visits her for ten years. She is literally dragged off, kicking and screaming. In spite of her husband’s abandonment, Viv never doubts his greatness. TOM AND VIV reflects the attitude of the people of the day concerning sexual matters; unmentionable. However, some references are made to women’s monthly cycles and menopause in connection with Viv’s illness, and virginity is considered desirable for unmarried persons. Only one obscenity is used for shock value. Typical of that period, the sophisticated often chain smoke and drink alcoholic beverages in social settings, and Viv frequently depends on pills and alcohol to deal with her physical and emotional problems. Not a pretty picture, but an honest one of a marriage not made in heaven.