Sunset Song
dir-scr Terence Davies
prd Roy Boulter, Sol Papadopoulos, Nicolas Steil
with Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie, Ian Pirie, Douglas Rankine, Jack Greenlees, Trish Mullin, Linda Duncan McLaughlin, Julian Nest, Daniela Nardini, Jim Sweeney, Niall Greig Fulton
release UK 4.Dec.15
15/UK BBC 2h15
Sunset Song
Don't go: Deyn and Guthrie

deyn mullan davies
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Sunset Song Adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon's iconic 1932 novel, this is a wrenchingly beautiful look at life in rural Scotland, crafted with real artistry by Terence Davies. The film has an unusual period tone, keeping everything bracingly realistic while observing events from a darkly personal perspective.

In northeastern Scotland around the turn of the 20th century, the education-hungry Chris (Deyn) and her sensitive brother Will (Greenlees) are menaced by their hardened father John (Mullan). And his brutality drives their perpetually pregnant mother (Nardini) over the edge. After Will moves away, events continue to conspire against Chris' desire to become a teacher. And she eventually ends up running the family farm, falling deeply in love with nice-guy neighbour Ewan (Guthrie), whom she prays won't turn into her father. But their happy marriage is interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War.

This is a story about how the demands of everyday life mould and shape us in ways we don't expect. It's a complex and provocative film that continually challenges our perceptions. Is John's cruelty a symptom of how difficult his life has been? Is Chris' tenacity the legacy of her mother's wrenching decision about her own fate? These people are clinging to every morsel happiness wherever they find it, struggling to remain in control of their destinies even as nature and outside forces seem to conspire against them.

And yet the film never feels particularly bleak, even with all of these literary bombs falling on the characters. This is largely due to Deyn' wide-eyed performance, which finds gentle warmth in every scene, sometimes veering into overwhelming joy or grim sadness. It's certainly not a typical star turn, as the grit is slightly unbalanced by her stunning supermodel looks. But it draws us in inexorably, especially in her scenes with the wonderfully expressive, irresistible Guthrie. By contrast, Mullan seems to be coasting in his over-familiar brutish-monster mode.

Davies assembles this with a poet's eye and ear. An omniscient voiceover narration hints at the bigger picture around Chris. Michael McDonough's cinematography captures the expansive landscapes and lashing rainstorms with in a raw, natural way that seeps into the pores of the story. And the plaintive folk-song score adds plenty of moody texture. It's such a strikingly well-made movie, resisting flashiness and remaining darkly introspective throughout, that it already feels like a timeless classic.

cert 15 themes, violence, sexuality 17.Sep.15

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