FILM REVIEW: Sunset Song

I thought Agyness Deyn was just a model? Well, you live and learn!

Actually, in all fairness, I barely even knew that.

Sunset Song is in many ways a wistful homage to life, love, family and the beautiful Scottish countryside.

This is a film adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel of the same name, set chiefly in Blairwearie, on the fictional estate of Kinraddie in North East Scotland, where Chris lives with her mother, brother and tyrannical father – a convincing turn here from Peter Mullan who you’ll recall played an equally unhinged character in Paddy Considine’s very excellent Tyrannosaur.

Agyness Deyn is surprisingly excellent portraying Chris, the softly spoken, bonny country lass with the gentle eyes, whose intelligence and academic achievements are seemingly paving the way for her to realise her ambition of a career in teaching.

Life however, as is so often the case, has other plans, and following the suicide of her mother and the abandonment of the homestead by her brother Will (Jack Greenlees), Chris has no option but to remain in Blairwearie and work on the farm with her father, whose ‘ways’ have been the sole catalyst for both her mother’s untimely death and brother’s departure.

With the pair now departed, it will be Chris’ turn to bare the brunt of her father’s abusive ways.

Chris’s life, seemingly now set to be one of functionality, drudgery and regret, is transformed though when life takes one of its unexpected turns and subsequently she enters a relationship with local lad, Ewan (the Leighton Baines-esque, Kevin Guthrie), but it will be a love that induces in Chris both the peak of her happiness and the very depths of her despair.

Sunset Song is strong in its insinuation that we don’t just grow up, move on, and leave all of our baggage behind us, but that life is in fact rather cyclical. What happens to our parents will therefore, in some respect at least, likely be our experience too, despite our best efforts, and we all therefore share – in the broader sense of the term at least – the same experiences of hope, happiness and misfortune, much as did every generation that ever preceded us.

This is certainly true in Chris’ case. She, a young farmer’s daughter, at the turn of the 19th/20th century, shawn of realistic opportunities to spread her wings, there’s therefore a certain inevitability to the life that lies ahead of her.
Whilst occasionally evocative, sometimes poignant and always visually beautiful, it should however be said that it’s a film that almost feels a little too long, possibly a bit forced in places and very nearly one with a tendency to veer too far into the domain of the formulaic in its latter stages.
Credit then to Director Terence Davies, for casting model, turned actress, Agyness Deyn in a role which ultimately leaves the viewer’s over-riding impression of Sunset Song as a favourable one. Deyn produces a tender performance that is very much the glue that holds it all together.
A gentle, unassuming film; unexpectedly enjoyable and an actress from whom big things must surely be expected in the near future.
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