By Aurela Berila, Staff Writer
Terence Davies brings “Sunset Song,” a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, to life in vivid imagery soiled beautifully by the poignant and distressing circumstances of the main character’s upbringing. Breathtaking wide shots of the Scottish countryside establish the fictional land of Kinraddie, a land that stands as a spiritual anchor; a representation of inner strength, resilience and provider of consolation. The tumultuous relationships and consequential mournful emotional journeys, portrayed convincingly by the actors, speak of unexpected challenges that life presents. They highlight the innate human navigation required to surpass them and to continue on.
The story follows the quick-witted and beautiful Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) as she comes of age in an unsettling family climate, at the center of which stands an emotionally and physically abusive father. On the other, shorter end a subdued and suppressed mother complies with her husband’s wishes and keeps bringing babies to life despite her old age. Chris and her brother, Will–who has a particularly turbulent relationship with the father–are unable to save their mother from the iron fist and sadly, her own volition to take away her life and bring her twin babies with her. Her despairing death is followed by Will’s escape, another loss that signals an increasinly desolate world for Chris. Chris remains alone, responsible of taking care of the land as its only keeper, strengthening the bond she has with her hometown. What follows is her father’s stroke, a blessing or a curse that leaves him incapable of taking care of himself and at Chris’s mercy.
Despite Chris’ dreams of being a teacher, she decides to stay behind and make permanent her bond to the land. She meets Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie), the animated and soft-hearted boy who brings a refreshing breeze to the story. With Ewan, who is everything her father wasn’t and who loves her tenderly, Chris finally lives a blissful life. What could very well be the happy ending to a story that finds its climax in a jubilation of love becomes only a short repose in an otherwise arduous travel. The couple’s happiness is soon interrupted by the start of war. Despite his wishes, Ewan is pressured into leaving for war. Chris is left to count the days until his return. Upon his homecoming, Ewan returns as a new person that reminds Chris of an old figure: her father. Damaged by the war, Ewan has become aggressive and tyrannical, but this is evidently not something Chris will endure again.
Chris’s love for her old Ewan never fades; however, she refuses to do what her mother did. Ewan leaves and they never see each other again. Chris is notified of his death in the war, but is told that before his death Ewan was thinking of her – a fading light on what was once a bright illumination of bliss to Chris. She once again finds her strength in the land. The film closes with a beautiful depiction of a sunset with Chris at its center accompanied by the “Sunset Song” a song that announces an end and promises a new beginning.
“Sunset Song” is currently being shown in theaters.