Thursday, 10 December 2015

Film: 'Sunset Song'

If this were to be the final film I see this year - though I hope it won't be - I'd be closing on one of my undoubted highlights. (I have to stress the 'my' because I see that on IMDb, the latest average viewer rating is a relatively paltry 6.4. That's too bad. I loved it).

Terence ("I utterly loathe being gay!") Davies has made just half a dozen feature films (plus one documentary on Liverpool), each one of them having been impressive to a greater or lesser extent. I'd put this one in the upper reaches of that range. He is now 70 years old - with another film in the pipeline. If 'Sunset Song' had turned out to have been his swansong it would have been a worthy one.

Based on a 1935 novel by one Lewis Grassic Gibbon (both title and writer of which I'd never heard), the idea of making this film has been gestating in Davies' mind for a decade and a half. 
Set in northern Scotland in the early years of the last century it follows the story of Chris Guthrie (Agness Deyn, quite remarkable, who carries the entire film on her shoulders) starting as teenage schoolgirl, through her early life with a violent, abusive father (hot, straight, grandaddy, Peter Mullan, who's in danger of getting typecast into unattractively brutish roles) and her young-adult brother, the principal victim of his father's short-fused ire -  with both belt and fists being employed. There are also two younger boys while the passive mother gives birth to a further pair of twins. 
The family runs a farm in the desolate, windswept highlands, all the family mucking in. As she becomes a young woman, Chris becomes mutually attracted to Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), and they eventually marry.

Davies shows his expected skill at filming sweeping vistas, without distractions, aural or otherwise.  In a sense it's a leisurely approach but it's ever ravishing to look at. He homes in on a mood and captures it exquisitely and accurately with no sense of falsehood.
It's a long film at 135 minutes. I had determined in advance to leave early (in order to get back in time to let Blackso in who'd be waiting outside for me, his fur now alarmingly and distressingly coming out, giving him a scruffy look, which makes him an even more likely target for the mischievous kids when a nearby school comes out) - but I'd been well hooked on the film and I just had to stay till the very end. (As it turned out I was in time getting back to 'rescue' Blackso from a possibly unfortunate fate).

All acting is every bit as fine as one would have hoped for in this near-epic. Soundtrack is perfection itself. I really wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, but I can't escape the fact that this is one of my films of the year. A quite singular achievement................8.5.


  1. It's on my list Ray. I'm so glad that you liked it. Kevin Guthrie is a guilty pleasure of mine so i would see it on that basis alone!

    1. I was hoping you'd want to see it, Craig, not least because of the Scottish setting. And apart from the landscapes, which really does need to be seen on the big screen, oh, those Scottish accents just send me into a daze of pleasure. I reckon it's the sexiest accent in the whole world, certainly the English-speaking one. (Criticism has been made in that the prevailing accent for the region in which this film is set was not borne out by its having speakers from a wide range of Scottish locations - though not being an expert, I didn't notice the incongruities.

      I hadn't heard of Kevin Guthrie, though I see he's done quite a bit of TV work. He's got a most endearing smile - AND we get to see him in a kilt (as well as his bare bottom), though the kilt is seen only when he's exhibiting his most unattractive side.

      Will be most interested to know how you react to the film as a whole.

    2. I had seen KG on television but he really came to my attention in Sunshine on Leith which I absolutely loved, and this coming from someone who doesn't usually like musicals, or even much of the Proclaimers music. As if I needed any more persuasion to see this, his bare bum is even more motivation. I like the Scottish highlands accents best of all. Too course down here where we live but softer and more lilting as you venture north.

    3. Yes, of course he was in 'Sunshine on Leith', which I liked too.
      I always find that Peter Mullan draws my eyes - but then I've always found him a real hottie, even when the character he plays is repulsive, as here.
      You might have to put on a deaf ear when hearing the varied accents in this film (which sounded all pretty similar to me, but there you are). I hope it turns out to be, if you notice it, no more than a minor distraction.

  2. I've never heard of the novel by Gibbon, but this is a film that I'd like to see.
    I have only recently become familiar with the work of Terence Davies but I like what I've seen. There is an intensely raw reality in his films and also a visually artistic quality (that sometimes seems to be unintentional). I'm certainly no expert on the subject.

    I'm so glad that you got home in time to let Blackso in. I let my cats outside during the day just to get some exercise and fresh air, but I always worry about them.
    My two female cats Scratch and Scruffy love the outdoors, but Bosco is very hesitant. He'll go on the porch for awhile but soon comes in.
    Thankfully there aren't any kids around here to worry about.

    1. Terence Davies is quite unique, Jon, and since his entire catalogue is so thin it wouldn't take long to catch up on all his cinema releases, every one of them something special and every one being memorable for good reasons.

      Blackso, sitting here beside me right now, is causing me great concern the way his skin is deteriorating and his fur is disappearing. He seems to be covered with 'blackheads' just about all over, back and underside, something which only started a few weeks ago, and which no amount of combing will remove - it just keeps coming back. But he is at least 16 years old now. I daren't take him to the vet (yet, but I may have to) as I'm afraid it could involve an expense for which i don't have the money. Having said that, he doesn't seem to be suffering unduly.
      When he goes out he sometimes uses the kitchen window at the back which is always open. But for some reason he forgets that he can also come back in that way anytime. He'll sit out front and wait for me to let him in that way. He's a constant thought of mine when he's out and I have to go out also, for whatever reason.
      But that's just one of any number of idiosyncracies one has to put up with having pets, as you yourself well know.