- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2016


Magnificently realized and acted, although a tad lugubrious at times, “Sunset Song” from British director Terence Davies (2011’s “The Deep Blue Sea,” an adultery drama not to be inadvertently confused with the similarly named 1999 film about genetically engineered sharks) translates Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel about a Scottish woman coming of age at the turn of the 20th century to the screen.

Agyness Deyn is Chris Guthrie, the young Scotswoman whose domineering, pious father (a wonderfully monstrous Peter Mullan) holds the family under his tyrannical, often violent, iron grip. Romance comes for Chris in the form of Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie), a well-meaning, well-intentioned young fellow who signs up on behalf of the Crown when war breaks out with Germany — returning from the front a broken, angry shell of a man.

The film is episodic, sometimes to its detriment, as it covers a period of only six years in which much happens. Through it all, Chris vows to maintain the family’s homestead, even as the greatest war ever known to that time — so magnanimous, in fact, that it would be called The Great War, with the world as yet blissfully unaware that its sequel would come less than three decades hence — tears apart the social and political fabric of Europe.

The acting, production design and costuming are all first-rate. Mr. Davies directs with a deft master’s touch, even if he is trigger-unhappy in the editing room (the film runs 2 hours, 15 minutes but feels longer). Miss Deyn solidly anchors the film, with fine support from Mr. Tavendale (whose fate is perhaps the most tragic of any in the narrative) and the churning energy of Mr. Mullan’s modulated performance as the demonic patriarch.

Opens Friday at the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema.

Rated R: Contains nudity, sex, war and domestic violence and Scottish brogue.

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