Tuesday, June 7, 2016

[Review] Sunset Song

It's significantly less sweet than its title might suggest, but the Terence Davies directed Sunset Song (adapted from a 1932 novel of the same name) is a mostly rewarding experience.

Set in Scotland as the First World War looms in the distance, Sunset Song follows the life of a farm girl named Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn). Aside from enduring the backbreaking manual harvest duties, Chris witnesses several travesties within her immediate family early on. After her mother poisons herself, her brother runs away, and her belt-wielding father dies of a stroke (Yeah, this thing is gloomy), Chris journeys into town and falls in love with a lad named Ewan (Kevin Guthrie). But just when things are brightening up--here comes war.

Despite the melancholy story, this is a beautifully filmed picture. The lush cinematography gazes through the misty haze of the sprawling Scottish hillsides and across the crystal, painterly lakes. The finely detailed interiors are almost just as impressive, with their candle-lit shadows and old-fashioned sepia tint. Between the big and small settings, and the vast stretches of time (the farm equipment evolves as years pass), the film is quietly epic and intimate all at once.

One of the sequences during the narrative's last third feels overwrought, too melodramatic, and unnaturally jarring given the mood the film had established to this point. I won't go into specifics about it, but you'll probably know which part I'm talking about. Still, Sunset Song is a potent tale of a woman's strength, perseverance, and independence amidst such unremitting tragedy.

( 7/10 )

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