'Sunset Song' can be simultaneously harsh and beautiful

Veteran English director Terence Davies has long dreamed of bringing Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel "Sunset Song" to the screen.

click to enlarge Agyness Deyn in "Sunset Song" - Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Agyness Deyn in "Sunset Song"

Veteran English director Terence Davies has long dreamed of bringing Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel Sunset Song to the screen. The book, which is the first part of A Scots Quair trilogy, is an iconic touchstone of Scottish culture, a masterful weaving of personal and public history. Now, after years of trying, Davies has his movie. It’s a coming-of-age story about Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn, in a remarkable performance), a farmer’s daughter who possesses a rare combination of intelligence and beauty. Her family is dysfunctional, driven by an abusive father whose religious fervor leads to disastrous results. But Chris is a devoted daughter, and she puts her own aspirations on the back burner to save what’s left of her family. The last third of the story can’t help but address World War I, and it’s fascinating how that encroaching global phenomenon impacts Chris’ seemingly small world. Sunset Song’s most affecting scenes occur when Chris is moving through the landscapes of her beloved farmland, which — like Davies’ movie — can be simultaneously harsh and beautiful. (Now showing at Mariemont Theatre) Grade: B+

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