Kill Your Darlings is a 2013 American biographical drama film written by Austin Bunn and directed by John Krokidas in his feature film directorial debut. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, garnering positive first reactions. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and it had a limited theatrical North American release from October 16, 2013. Kill Your Darlings also became available on Blu-ray and DVD, March 18, 2014 in the US, followed by its UK release on April 21, 2014.
The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac), their interactions, and the killing in Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City.
As a young man in the 1940s, poet Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) wins a place at Columbia University in New York City. He arrives as a very inexperienced freshman, but soon runs into Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who is very anti-establishment and rowdy.
After a while, Ginsberg discovers that Carr only manages to stay at Columbia thanks to a somewhat older man, a professor, David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who writes all of his term papers for him, and has a predatory relationship with Carr. It appears that Kammerer is still in love with Carr, and is revealed to be pressuring Carr for sexual favors, in exchange for assuring that he cannot be expelled.
Ginsberg soon meets, through Carr, William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), already far into drug experimentation. The writer Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), who was a sailor at that time and expelled from Columbia, also meets and spends time with them. Carr eventually tells Kammerer he is done with him, and recruits Ginsberg (who has a crush on him) to write his term papers instead. After a while, Kerouac and Carr attempt to run off and join the merchant marine together, hoping to go to Paris.
There is a confrontation between Carr and Kammerer, during which Kammerer is killed by stabbing (and perhaps also by drowning). Carr is arrested, and asks Ginsberg to write his deposition for him. Ginsberg is at first reluctant to help the unstable Carr, but after digging up more crucial evidence on Kammerer and his past relationship, he writes a piece entitled "The Night in Question". The piece describes a more emotional event, in which Carr kills Kammerer who outright tells him to after being threatened with the knife, devastated by this final rejection. Carr rejects the "fictional" story, and begs a determined Ginsberg not to reveal it to anybody, afraid that it will ruin him in the ensuing trial.
We learn from Carr's mother that Kammerer was the first person to seduce Carr, when he was much younger and lived in Chicago. After the trial we find out that Carr testified that the attack took place only because Kammerer was a sexual predator, and that Carr killed him in self-defense. Carr is not convicted of murder and receives only a short sentence for manslaughter.
Ginsberg then submits "The Night in Question" as his final term paper. On the basis of that shocking piece of prose, Ginsberg is faced with possible expulsion from Columbia. Either he must be expelled or he must embrace establishment values. He chooses the former, but is forced to leave his typescript behind. A week or two later he receives the typescript in the mail with an encouraging letter from his professor telling him to pursue his writing.