Following on from the Harry Potter franchise, all eyes are on Daniel Radcliffe as to what his next move will be, and whether he’ll find himself on the Hollywood scrapheap of other typecast, famous child actors, or if he’ll continue to prove himself a force to be reckoned with in world cinema by making creative, bold decisions. It certainly seems to be the latter, as he stars in John Krokidas’ audacious debut production, Kill Your Darlings.
Set in the 1940s and based on real events, Radcliffe plays a young Allen Ginsberg, who leaves behind a dysfunctional family setup in turn for Columbia University, where he meets the anarchic and seductive Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). The two eventually become close friends, sharing a common interest in poetry, and form creative bonds with fellow literary peers Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). However such friendships flirt with infatuation, but none more so than the relationship between Carr and professor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), an unhinged obsession which works as a catalyst for a series of pent up emotions to emerge.
Krokidas must be commended for this striking foray into directing, as he has perfectly encapsulated that feeling of indestructibility – that belief you can change the world – at such an age. The hedonistic lifestyles our protagonists live is consummately captured in the soundtrack, particularly where The Libertines are concerned, as Krokidas is not afraid to implement contemporary music into this period piece to enhance the spirited ambiance. The performances across the board are terrific, with DeHaan in particular making a mark: taking on a challenging role of a young man who bears as much confidence and charisma as he does emotional fragility.
It is simply fascinating to see the beat generation explored on screen within such untouched territory, as a story that had been deliberately held back from public knowledge until Carr’s passing in 2005. Though the film may struggle to compel at times, where it stands strong is within this intriguing narrative, meaning that, at the very least, you’ll leave incredibly surprised it’s a story you haven’t heard before.