Agyness Deyn stars in Terence Davies’ moving drama about a strong young woman facing many adversities in the run up to WWI. Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel gives Terence Davies a broad canvas of rain-lashed farmland on which to apply his knack for literary adaptation.
It’s the early 20th-century in rural Scotland and Chris Guthrie (Deyn) is a young woman with ambition, but family life has its own pull and her religious father exerts a formidable force on his brood. As the constellation of her family shifts around her and romance comes calling, WWI begins. Deyn's tremendous performance as Chris commands attention in every scene of Davies' epic, supplemented by Peter Mullan and Kevin Guthrie as the two equally troublesome men in her lives; her volcanically tempered father and a husband traumatised from his stint in the trenches. Davies originally aimed to adapt Gibbon’s novel in 2000, following House of Mirth, but was unable to raise financing. His disillusionment with the process led to an 11-year hiatus from narrative filmmaking, only punctuated by the documentary Of Time and the City in 2008. Thankfully Sunset Song offers ample rewards to offset its protracted gestation and a reminder of Davies’ pertinent value to British cinema.