Life is harsh in Terence Davies’s Sunset Song. Adapted from a novel, set before and during World War I, the movie is the coming-of-age story of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), a Scottish farm-girl living with an imperious father, a doting mother, and a restless brother. With voiceover by Deyn that treats her character in the third-person, we get insight into Chris’s interior life as she matures, becomes disillusioned, falls in love, hardens, loses and gains hope. Davies convincingly shifts the narrative in time, sometimes using clever pans, other times using dissolves. There are lulls in the story, scenes of mundane activities like farming and singing, but Davies never overindulges in scenery porn, though the bucolic setting is ripe for it. Sunset Song is an unsentimental portrait of premodernity/early modernity, sharply showcasing the jagged vicissitudes of life as well as behavior that may offend our contemporary sensibilities. The third act seems uneven: After the climax, the denouement feels rushed and the resolution feels undeserved and we are left underwhelmed. That may be because Sunset Song seems like a true-to-life saga, one that could have gone and on and on.
In Scottish, with subtitles, which are a great help for the non-Scot.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White