Educated young woman Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) finds herself coming-of-age in the Scottish highlands just prior to the start of The First World War. She lives most of her early adult life subservient to her hardened farmer father (Peter Mullan) and worried for her long suffering, and far too old to be pregnant mother. She loves her brother (Jack Greenlees) deeply, but his hatred of their father won’t keep them around for long. When tragedy strikes the family repeatedly over a short period of time, Chris is left to look after the farm with her first love, the charming and understanding Ewan (Kevin Guthrie). But just as the couple plans to move ahead and create a new family, war comes to their doorstep.
Based on the seminal novel from Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Sunset Song has a lot of detail and family history to cover across 2 hours of screen time. It’s really a coming of age story that starts earlier and stops far later than most stories are willing to go. It’s perfect material for British auteur Terence, someone unafraid of lavish period detail and patient storytelling, and his adaptation doesn’t disappoint.
Anchored by a wondrous leading performance from rising star Deyn, Sunset Song proves to be just as stately and epic as Davies more recent efforts, but decidedly less nostalgic. It’s complex, and told with a staunchly literary reverence for the source material, but Davies presents the plight of the Guthrie family in a matter of fact way, without resorting to melodrama or shortcuts. It’s also told with a great deal of style and fluidity, and it doesn’t give into Davies’ usually rose coloured perceptions of the past.