Long in gestation, Terence Davies’s adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic novel about a farming family struggling to eke out a living in northeast Scotland proves well worth the wait.
Exquisitely shot, each scene looks like an Old Masters painting as Davies applies his distinct “memory realism” style to a twentieth-century northern British milieu that many will recognize from the writer-director’s previous films.
Scratching a livelihood out of the stunning but harsh terrain, the Guthrie family cowers in obedient fear of its brooding patriarch (Mullan), a man prone to sudden and ferocious bursts of anger. As Guthrie’s long-suffering wife retreats into silence, the film’s attention shifts to his daughter Chris (Deyn), a beautiful and intelligent young woman divided between her hatred for the coarse people in her village and her love of the landscape. A truly remarkable work that continues the director’s interest in community and patterns of male brutality, it’s also a feast for the senses.
Want to find out if Sunset Song is for you? Listen to Jason Wood and Andy Willis discuss the film on our podcast (tune in from 27 seconds)