SUNSET SONG (UK|Luxembourg/16/135mins)
Directed by Terence Davies. Starring Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie, Ian Pirie, Niall Greig Fulton
THE PLOT: Chris (Agyness Deyn) is a young woman living Scotland in the early 1900s. Talented at school, everything changes for her when her mother dies and her brother leaves home. It is up to Chris to make a life for herself, a better one than her mother lived.
THE VERDICT: Director Terence Davies has made acclaimed films throughout his career, including the recent film ‘The Deep Blue Sea’. In turning his hand to adapting Lewis Grassic Gibbons’ novel for the big screen however, Davies makes a film that is episodic, uneven, and where nothing really happens.
Agyness Deyn proved that she is a talented actress with last year’s ‘Electricity’, but she is woefully miscast in Sunset Song. Deyn tries her best, but seems to over act in every scene she is in – which is most of them – and she never truly bonds with the other actors on the screen, making this seem like a badly acted one woman show. Peter Mullan is on great form, as usual, as Chris’ abusive and controlling father. This is a strong performance, but a role that we have seen Mullan do before. Kevin Guthrie is sweet as Chris’ young suitor Ewan, but abruptly turns from sweetheart to monster in a matter of two or three scenes.
Terence Davies screenplay takes the narration from the book and plants it into the film, but since this is sporadic, the beautiful imagery it creates falls quickly away, and when the voiceover returns it feels jarring and laboured. The rest of the film feels episodic, as time passes as an uneven rate, characters go through abrupt changes, and the film feels like a collection of scenes, rather than a coherent story.
As director Davies does not pace the film well, in fact, there seems to be no urgency to the storytelling at all, making the story feel secondary to the admittedly beautiful cinematography. The performances are uneven in the film, and the entire affair is so badly edited that scenes seem to happen for no other reason than it says they should in the script.
In all, ‘Sunset Song’ is a dour affair; drawn out, badly paced and no real story to glue it together. Deyn tries her best to carry the film but seems to have been over directed as her hammy performance becomes entertaining for all the wrong reasons.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Sunset Song
Review by Brogen Hayes
1.0Uneven & hammy
  • filmbuff2011

    England’s most poetic and lyrical director, Terence Davies, returns to our cinema screens for Sunset Song. It’s based on the 1932 novel by Scottish writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Set in the Highlands in the early part of the 20th Century, it focuses on Chris (Agyness Deyn). She’s a teenager who lives with her stern, grizzled farmer father (Peter Mullan) and the rest of her family, including brother Will (Jack Greenlees). Slowly-but-surely coming of age, she’s forced into a more prominent role when her aging mother commits suicide at the thought of having yet more children. She has to grow up a little bit faster, looking after her father who subsequently suffers a stroke. These are all character-defining events though, as Chris goes from teenager to young woman at the coalface of life in the desolate Highlands. At the same time, she also has to deal with the advances of a young man, Ewan (Kevin Guthrie) who will shape her life in the years to come… Most definitely not a one-star film, Sunset Song is another measured and thoughtful character piece from Davies. He has a distinct way of reducing his dialogue to a minimum, letting his actors say more through their expressions than through their mouths. And what faces – the striking Deyn made an electrifying impression this time last year with the Electricity. Here, she builds on that to deliver an at-times heart-breaking performance. It’s what we don’t see on Deyn’s face that also counts. During a disturbing marital rape sequence, Davies slowly and discreetly pans the camera down the opposite side of the bed, showing Ewan’s descent into increasingly poor, shell-shocked behaviour – a result of being conscripted into WWI. Old reliable Mullan has a weather-beaten face that is ideal for this film. The harsh landscape is as much a character too, with Davies lingering on shots of windswept wheat like Terrence Malick does with gurgling streams. It’s a gorgeous film to look at – there’s a harsh beauty to it that lingers in the mind. The exteriors were shot on 70mm, giving an epic scope where the troubles of the characters are framed against an unforgiving environment. It’s a coming-of-age story with a distinctly Scottish flavour, with Davies on fine form and supported by a committed cast. This reviewer was entranced by this wee bonnie film. Aye. ****