It's been five years since Terence Davies graced us with his luminous adaptation of The Deep Blue Sea, and while I may have a while to wait before I can see his Emily Dickinson biopic, at least I've now caught up with Sunset Song, which premiered at TIFF last year. An adaptation of a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon previously made into a six-part miniseries by BBC Scotland, Davies's film covers several years in the young life of Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), who's training to be a teacher when a family tragedy forces her to give up her dream and stay at home to help her strict father (Peter Mullan) work the land. That goes double when her brother Will (Jack Greenlees), who has borne the brunt of his sadistic beatings, leaves home with no intention of ever returning.
Things look up for Chris and for the film in general when her father is felled by a stroke, and it's not long before Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie), a local lad who's had his eye on her, proposes marriage and she readily accepts. Just as they're getting started on building their family, though, the Great War breaks out and, after some dithering, Ewan answers the call to take up arms for his country. Sadly for Chris -- and for the film in general -- the Ewan who comes back to her when he gets leave is much coarser than the one who left. Similarly, the woman who stands up to him is stronger than the one who couldn't do the same to her father. Sunset Song verges on misery porn at times, but misery porn is rarely so beautifully shot.