Sunset Song (15)

Directed & Written by Terence Davies
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 4th December 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

There are many majestic and poetic landscape images created by cinematographer Michael McDonough - he uses 65 mm film to produce high definition colours - in this adaptation by Terence Davies of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's novel, set in Scotland prior to the onset of the first world war. But the rest of the film was very underwhelming, and bombastic.

The term ersatz also comes to mind.

For instance, you have the absurd scenario of only two people - an elderly father (Peter Mullan) and his twenty something daughter Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) - being capable of running a medium sized farm in the coastal county of The Mearns (now Aberdeenshire).

Even less realistic was Chris, a very glamorous looking woman (Deyn was a former supermodel) spending hours toiling in the fields, but returning to the farmhouse as if she had just popped outside, looking fresh as a daisy!

Sunset Song is awash with sentimental cliches, with long drawn out passages, notably a wedding ceremony and reception, when Chris marries doe-eyed Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), after barely knowing each other, and endless sing songs ad nauseam.

But there are some excruciating and inhumane passages in the film, notably when the brutal father rapes his wife in their bedroom, in hearing distance of his grown up son, Will (Jack Greenlees) and Chris, with both of them sharing the same bedroom but in different beds!

In regard to the savage conduct of the father it was hard to believe that Will, a strong looking guy in his mid-twenties, following minor misdemeanours, would allow him to strap him repeatedly in the barn with his shirt off without reacting. He would surely have lashed back at his cruel behaviour.

Other faults in the film appeared with scenes where there is no follow up. In the opening minutes you see Chris attending college, training to become a teacher, but then there is no development of this aspect of her life.

This happened again, after about an hour, when Will, who is very close to his sister, departs to find work in Aberdeen, and to escape his father's tyranny, but you never see him again and no reference is ever made of him by anyone.

One comment about Davies and Sunset Song was that no other UK director could have made it. And this was meant as praise.

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