Review: Sunset Song
Terence Davies’ stunningly beautiful film Sunset Song starts boldly, by presenting the work as being by Lewis Grassic Gribon, (author of the book), rather than by Davies himself, (who directs and writes the screenplay). By doing so, Davies enforces that the story being told is that of the author, bold when considering that Davies is not Scottish, a farmer, or writing in the thirties.
Sunset Song is the story of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) but also that of Scotland, particularly that of a fictional farming community where Chris is resigned to manage. After her brutish father (Peter Mullan) passes away after some terrible unpleasantness, (in all senses), and her mother dies from childbirth, Chris tends to the farm by herself. She does receive some support from Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie, from Sunshine on Leith) whom she courts and marries, but make no mistake, this way of living is certainly not pleasant.
Deyn puts in some outstanding work, nailing the accent and the gravitas required for the intimate and demanding role of Guthrie. Interestingly, Deyn has little previous acting experience, but captures the suffering very well, not going over the top. In a way, the story seems similar to Brooklyn but perhaps a little more onerous.
Ultimately, the fulfillment of the experience rests on an appreciation of Terence Davies. The auteur is rigorous in his craft, presenting beautiful dissolves and landscapes. It is also very apparent that he chose to present a difficult film like this one for a clear reason, as the misogyny and hardship of Sunset Song certainly have not fallen by the wayside.
The ending of the film suggests a new day dawning, but is the audience awake enough to do something about living it? Wait and see.