Terence Davies | 135 mins
UK/Luxembourg | 2015 | English
Cast: Peter Mullan, Jack Greenlees, Agyness Deyn, Kevin Guthrie
Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea, The House of Mirth) has created some of the greatest British cinema of the past 40 years, and has now realized a long-held dream with this adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic 1932 novel (a staple in Scottish classrooms). Chronicling the joys and sorrows of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), the daughter of a farming family in northeast Scotland, Sunset Song is an exquisitely shot meditation on a way of life that has disappeared into the mists of the past.
Scratching a livelihood out of the harsh terrain, the Guthrie family cowers in obedient fear of its patriarch (Peter Mullan, Sunshine on Leith, Riff-Raff), a man prone to sudden and ferocious bursts of anger. Along with her brother Will (Jack Greenlees), the beautiful and intelligent Chris dreams of freedom and escape. When a surprising turn of events leaves Chris in charge of the farm, she rises to the occasion and is soon running her affairs singlehandedly. Proud and self- sufficient, Chris finds love with her neighbour, the handsome young Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie, The Legend of Barney Thomson, Sunshine on Leith) – but the shadow of the Great War soon reaches even this remote corner of Europe, and Chris’ home and happiness are threatened by forces beyond her control.
Applying his lyrical “memory realism” style to the simultaneously stunning and forbidding rural landscape, Davies makes every scene like something out of an Old Masters canvas. But while he finds great beauty in the world that Chris makes for herself, he well knows that nothing is permanent, and that the world outside can be harsh and unkind. Depicting both unexpected bliss and crushing sadness with incomparable sensitivity, Davies has created yet another heartbreakingly beautiful ode to a time long gone.