It’s been four years since the work of Terence Davies last graced our screens, in the form of the exquisite The Deep Blue Sea. Now he returns with Sunset Song, an adaptation of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel of the same name. I first fell in love with Davies’ work when I saw a double bill of both The Long Day Closes and Of Time and the City an occurrence which ignited the love for cinema I was beginning to develop. I had the pleasure of meeting Davies’ in 2011 where I managed to shakily congratulate him on The Deep Blue Sea before bursting into overwhelmed tears in a public toilet. In both person and in interviews he always seems to be an eloquent and gracious man – something always echoed in his films. Sunset Song takes place at the dawn of the First World War, a war that seems so far away to Chris, a farm girl from Aberdeenshire. Chris resides with her family, studying hard with the aim to become a teacher. Life with her violent father, unhappy mother and loving brother continuously gets in her way as she fights for her independence. For Chris, life goes on and there is always work to be done in this, a tale of womanhood, strength and devotion. Sunset Song, with its stunning incorporation of the land, the nostalgic and the realist is an utter triumph that rivals Davies’ earlier work.
Agyness Deyn gives a remarkable central performance as Chris, self-assured but often stifled by those around her. As time passes, Chris’ confidence and assertion subtly grows through Deyn’s intense, sensitive portrayal. Gone is the short peroxide hair we are used to and in its place a captivating, gentle actress resides. Peter Mullan brings the ferocity and the stillness we’ve come to adore and expect whilst the likes of Kevin Guthrie, who have unimpressed in the past thanks to the hideous Sunshine on Leith, succeeds in redeeming himself – evidence that Davies knows how to get the best out of his actors. The film’s breath-taking cinematography makes the landscapes and surroundings a character in itself. During Sunset Song we see romance and devotion between man and woman but more prominent than this is the love story between a woman and her home, a girl and the land she tends. Floorboards creak and pipe smoke billows, as though one could smell and feel such things through the screen; creating a completely absorbing atmosphere from start to finish. Sunset Song moves graciously and fluidly like its predecessors. Emotion drives the story forwards rather than events and, as faces come and go, Chris’ always remains, always slightly altered by each tragedy, loss or gain that she experiences. Davies’ understands how to tell women’s stories; here, treating his lead character with respect and compassion. The central celebrations of womanhood and survival combined with the blustery, cruel nature that surrounds, make Sunset Song not only one of Terence Davies finest accomplishments but one of this year’s best features. Full of heart, soul, beauty and love, Sunset Song is a valiant piece of cinematic art that simply cannot be missed – a bold reminder of why Terence Davies is so precious.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.