This is the second in an on-going series detailing films that were aborted mid-viewing, and why we couldn’t even finish them.
Trial By Films was founded as an unbiased source in film entertainment criticism, devoid of the ‘groupthink’ that occurs at sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic; but even we can be influenced. In part due to consensus critical acclaim, there were sky high expectations for Sunset Song, the newest film from English film auteur Terence Davies. Set against the majestic backdrop of early 20th century northern Scotland, Sunset Song is an adaptation of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon masterpiece of the same name.
Sunset Song stars Agyness Deyn as young Chris Guthrie, an Aberdeenshire farm girl struggling with her maturation to womanhood, trying to find her place in a hard Scotland with a hard man for a father and a hard war about to begin that will sweep across Europe.
Starting with the positives – Sunset Song is a gorgeously set and beautifully filmed vision of early 1900s Scotland. Natural lighting was relied upon in production and filming on location was well worth the effort. Sunset Song could be a visual tourism guide to the farmlands of northern Scotland. The acting talent is natural and authentic, with a particularly strong showing from Peter Mullan as Chris’ cruel father John. Between production, location, and cinematography, and acting; Sunset Song paints a realistic reminder of the time it seeks to portray, blemishes and all.
The plot development and pacing of Sunset Song leaves much to be desired. Purposeful stage-like scene development and actor movement can come across smartly conceived and kinetic (such as 2012’s Anna Karenina by Joe Wright), but the episodic nature of Sunset Song stilts the film’s pace and grinds the story to a halt every time it picks up momentum. I’m sure the eventual growth of Chris from naive farm girl to independent Scottish woman is drama worthy of it’s classic source material, but audiences have to stay awake to get there; and director Terence Davies doesn’t make that easy with listless pace and scene transitions barren of any rhythmic balance.
And that is why this film was aborted.
The Perpetrator: Writer/Director Terence Davies