Film Review: Sunset Song
Terence Davies’ Sunset Song is beautifully shot. Yet the film feels overlong, and is not as gratifying as it could be.
In the early 20th Century, Chris Guthrie is growing up. The daughter of a Scottish farmer, Chris reaches maturity at a tumultuous time for her family. As Chris’ life changes, so does the world around her…
Sunset Song tells the story of a changing time in the life of protagonist Chris. A youthful flourish gives way to a more turbulent time as Chris becomes a woman. She sees the troubles of other characters, and certain warnings become poignant later in her life.
The language of the film, from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s original novel, is beautifully descriptive, and the voiceover has a poetic quality. Nevertheless, despite its beauty, Sunset Song feels like a missed opportunity. The pacing switches from swift to glacial. Important times seem to be covered rather quickly, yet the ending in particular is so leisurely that it adds to an anti-climactic feeling. Part of the issue is that the book is one in a series; but audiences could feel less than satisfied with the conclusion, especially given the film’s running time.
The landscape is a significant part of Sunset Song, and cinematographer Michael McDonough shoots the film marvellously. McDonough captures the beauty of the environment, as well as its severity. Writer-director Davies threads a naturalistic tone through the film, depicting the joys and the hardships that young people faced at the time.
Peter Mullan delivers a commanding performance as Chris’ father. Agyness Deyn does an adequate job as Sunset Song‘s protagonist, although she is not always convincing. It does not help that she is ill cast for the earlier scenes; looking far more mature than her character’s age. Kevin Guthrie shows promise as Ewan, even if his transformation is too harsh.
Sunset Song looks the part of a period drama. Despite its beauty, the film does not captivate as it should.