Movie review of “Sunset Song”: This period piece about a young woman in World War I-era rural Scotland is as breathtakingly beautiful as you’d expect from filmmaker Terence Davies. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
The British filmmaker Terence Davies makes visually exquisite movies; his 2012 drama “The Deep Blue Sea” took place in a softly faded postwar London, where a woman’s disappointment and heartbreak was caught in quiet pale-yellow light. His new film, “Sunset Song,” is another period piece centered on a lovely heroine: Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), a young woman in World War I-era rural Scotland, who has the kind of face on which emotions flicker like the candlelight in which she lives.
Based on a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the film doesn’t sentimentalize Chris’ life, which consists of a seemingly unbearable string of hardships: a suicidal mother (Daniela Nardini), an abusive father (Peter Mulan), a young husband (Kevin Guthrie) whose love eventually turns colder than a winter wind. But it’s breathtakingly shot (in 65-mm widescreen), and it blooms with moments of astonishing beauty: a yellow frenzy of springtime trees; a still room where the light slants in the window like a reaching hand; a desolate landscape, impossibly green.
Perhaps some of the poetic dialogue is directly from Gibbon’s book (a Scottish classic, published in 1932); much of it, spoken by Deyn in a soft but emphatic whisper, is as lovely as those images. Chris ponders, late in the film “the far-off youngness” of her life, but seems to gain strength from adversity, determined not to let herself be shaped by pain. “You can do without day,” she murmurs, near the end, “if you have a lamp quiet-lighted, and kind in your heart.”
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Sunset Song,’ with Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie. Written and directed by Terence Davies. 135 minutes. Rated R for sexuality, nudity and some violence. SIFF Cinema Uptown.