I wish Sunset Song, Terence Davies’ adaptation of the 1930s novel of the same name, meant as much to me as it clearly did to the director, who spent years fighting to make it. Hell, I wish the film meant a fraction as much to me as it does to its many fans, who’ve proclaimed it as a masterpiece.
Instead, Sunset Song strikes me as the kind of period piece more interested in realistic costumes and settings than characters. Davies’ camera frames gorgeous shots of the picturesque Scottish countryside, but fails to inhabit that countryside with memorable people. We follow the young, beautiful Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) through a simple life complicated by a tyrannical father and the onset of World War I, but her character never feels inhabited.
Deyn, who began her career as a world-famous model, looks the part, but her performance feels stilted and unconvincing. She’s not aided by David Charap’s blunt editing, which tromps from scene to scene as though we’re watching a sequence of staged recitals. Sunset Song strives for the lyrical beauty of literature – and, I’ll concede, occasionally reaches it! – but despite its beauty, falls far short of anything approaching authenticity. Pretty, but disappointing.