Thorkell August Ottarsson’s review published on Letterboxd:
There are not many films about poems, for many reasons. One that it's hard to film a poem and another there are simply not that many poems that historically deserve that status. Howl is however one them.
Anyone who knows anything about poetry will have heard the name of Allen Ginsberg, the voice of a generation (huge inspiration to Bob Dylan by the way) If people know of one poem by Ginsberg it is Howl. If you have not read this brilliant poem then listen to the master himself reading his poem (no one does it better):
It is a long epic poem about the angst of a generation, homosexuality, drugs and psychological treatments. Allen Ginsberg was gay and was ashamed of his sexual orientation. He wrote Howl because he wanted to say everything he could not say to his father or the world, not intending to publish it at all. However when it was published the publication was sued and the famous obscenity trial was held.
The film is is in 4 parts. 1) An animated version of some of the parts of the poem. 2) The trial. 3) Interview with Ginsberg where we learn about his acceptance of his own nature and 4) Ginsberg reading his own poem.
James Franco plays Allen Ginsberg and he is IMO the weakest link in this film. He does not capture the charm and charisma of Ginsberg at all and he does not recite the poem with the same beautiful rhythm as Ginsberg did.
Still this is a brave, original and beautiful film about one of the greatest poem ever written and one of the greatest poet who ever lived and how these two affected American freedom of speech. Very underrated film.