Kill Your Darlings
Written by John Krokidas and Austin Bunn
Directed by John Krokidas
John Krokidas’ film debut Kill Your Darlings follows the turbulent university years of famed American beat writers Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster). Set in the early 1940s at Columbia University and on the streets of New York City, the film centers around the murder of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) and the months that led up to it.
The film does an excellent job showcasing the talented actors chosen to play these renowned writers. It was quite a risk to employ Radcliffe, whose fame began by playing the title role in the popular Harry Potter film series, and Hall, who has manipulated audiences for years playing good-guy serial killer on Showtime’s Dexter, yet it works out brilliantly. Chemistry has a lot to do with how actors work, and it is evident here that the cast played well off of each other. Since the retelling of events onscreen can sometimes be complicated, it is always a pleasure to watch gifted players bring them to life once more.
Kill Your Darlings is designated as a dramatic, romantic thriller and that is exactly what it is. The relationships involve heavy drama, romance, and thrill, to say the least. What ties these genres together so seamlessly is the astute use of the gaze. Although these writers might be typing and penning their ideas onto the page, it is with their eyes that they are doing the most of their writing. It is with their sidelong glances, glares, and gazes that they are able to communicate how they feel about each other and the situations that they find themselves in. The Second World War is at the brink of ending and things are rapidly changing. The alliances these men have made up are being questioned continuously, and the creative work they are producing is helping them find their way. One thing is for sure, they understand that they must break the cycle that they have been a part of, literary and otherwise. The meaning behind the film’s title suggests that one must learn to revise one’s writing and to not be afraid to sometimes ruthlessly make a few changes to one’s work, which a professor advises his students during a critical scene. He speaks of “killing your darlings,” suggesting that sometimes it is necessary to kill the thing you love to move on, breaking a cycle that you might find yourself in. By breaking from form and tradition, these young men set into motion a series of events that will eventually lead them to murder and fame; it will also lead them down a path of self-discovery.
Kill Your Darlings is an attention-grabbing film and most audiences would be hard-pressed to find a dull moment. From beginning to end, expect to be pleasantly entertained. It is interesting how the film concentrates around the lives of this group of beat poets at this particular significant time in their history. Rife with lust, obsession. and suspicion, the film depicts this generation well. It is a difficult task taking on the likeness of events transpired, ones that made national headlines involving homosexuality and murder in the 1940s. As mentioned above, the cast did a good job taking on the identities of these real people, showcasing the darkness that surrounds these events. One of the lessons the boys had been taught in school is that first one must imitate before they are able to create, and this film is a perfect example.
— Trish Ferris