RiverRun 2016: Sunset Song


“Chrissie, only fools love being alive.”

That’s what a friend tells Chris Guthrie (played by Agyness Deyn), the central character of Terence Davies’ Sunset Song. But Chris is relentlessly positive, even to her own detriment.

Adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel of the same name, Sunset Song follows Guthrie through her coming of age in the Scottish Highlands from the turn of the century into the First World War. Deyn portrays the bookish beauty Guthrie convincingly through all the periods in her life, from schoolgirl to bride and mother. The rest of the cast contributes similarly sympathetic and masterful performances as well; standouts include Guthrie’s progressive and loving brother Will (Jack Greenless) and abusive father John (Peter Mullan).

While the acting is superb, the pace initially comes off a bit jolting. Time advances with little to no notice, often at breakneck speed for a domestic, period drama. The upside is that the film feels quicker than its rather lengthy runtime, but you may suspect the editing board held thousands of yards of cut film.

Conversely, Davies’ camera lingers on gorgeous, subdued shots.

Maybe that’s the point.

“There are lovely things in the world,” Guthrie states, breaking the fourth wall, staring deep into the lens. “Lovely that do not endure, and the lovelier for that.”

Thus, Davies makes his statement: Time flies, so relish the beautiful moments.

Sunset Song screens at April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at SECCA

— Anthony Harrison