Sunset Song review

As Hannah puts her two thumbs to her iPhone keyboard in the rushhour commute, she is transported from the drudgery of her daily grind. Hannah is late, or perhaps she is right on time and life is early...

Sunset Song is, according to Wikipedia, regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century. It is a story about Chris Guthrie (Deyn) and her difficult existence within a poor, dysfunctional family. Her father (Mullen) is a controlling bully; her mother (weirdly not credited on IMDB) has borne him too many children and on hearing of another pregnancy kills herself and her baby twins. Eventually Chris is left with her father who after a stroke tries to convince her to have an incestuous relationship with him, but physically weakened, he is unable to force her before dying and leaving her the farm in his will. Having abandoned her education after her mother’s death, Chris does what all good women do and marries a man (Guthrie – I know! The actor shares her characters surname…what are the chances…) and lives happily ever after: until she doesn't – of course.

But we are not here to talk about the book – we are here to talk about the film.

To read is to make us a better man but to watch film is to make us a modern man according to Hannah,(aged 33 and three quarters), for Hannah is of the land and the land knows Hannah well…

Now, I don't know about you but I have never truly considered what I might look like opening a door, walking through a door and closing a door. In fact, I'm not sure I've really paid attention to those around me opening and walking through doors either. Same to, I have never truly observed someone walking down or up a flight of stairs. I have before watched a woman scrubbing a floor on film, seen a harvest portrayed as back breaking work, watched a cow be milked, a woman crying, a man crying, another woman crying, people staring forlornly. But I was truly grateful to learn a great deal more about the act of walking through a door. I was also delighted by the three minute scene of people walking to church from multiple angles and then sitting in church. How wonderful to see what a congregation looks like from the Reverend's pulpit.

Hannah considers her own days in Church growing up, and in fact, it was as dull as this scene suggests but the singing not nearly as beautiful…like bird song in the sunlight…or poetry in the middle of a film…or narrating your own story in the third person…like Hannah does here…

If the filmmaker's entire raison d'être for making this book into a film was to portray just how dull, long and boring the protagonists life is then he has succeeded beyond measure.

Hannah puts her hand to the handle of a door, pushes the handle down, as the latch breaks free she pushes the door with an imperceptible force until it opens in front of her. Hannah steps through the door, turns back, puts her hand on the inside handle and pulls the door towards her, pushing the handle down as she does so until the latch is in place, she releases the handle and the latch is locked in place. The door is closed. Then she forgets why she went in this room and turns to open the door again…probably

In fact, if you have never been to a wedding in your life and don't know what one might look like, don't worry; it's all here. First the long shot of the dress on the bed, then the bride in the dress, then the dull tones of a reverend and then the dancing, oh how we danced! Then the speeches...oh the speeches, I can't wait for this bit! Then the singing - what?! Of course there is singing, this is Scotland. We can have two full songs. First the bride sings a mournful song on her own and then Auld Lang Syne - because it's New Year and you've never heard it sung before at New Year – pah! Not as emotionally as this crowd sings it. Phew! What a wedding. It's almost as thrilling as being at an actual wedding and finding yourself stood cold outside a church without so much as a drink or food as the photos are taken. "Don't forget Aunt Mildred! She's just nipped to the loo."  

Now, I could go on with the finer details of this film. Highlights include the bit where we're told of someone's death, and then get to watch it all anyway.

Please wait while I just open this door here… walk through and close it behind me...ooh! It is probably a metaphor for death…

First the books poetic description and then the Director remembers it's a film and shows us. This is a recurring theme, alongside the utterly pointless narration of Guthrie (Deyn) as she constantly tells us what we are watching.

Hannah is nearing her destination and ponders the true meaning of Christmas as the Oxford Circus mayhem draws her into its web. But she turns her thoughts back to her review of this film. A review that is taking as long to write as the film was to watch…

The biggest problem here is the director’s clear love for the subject matter. You can imagine he has read the book every year of his life, and his film is as slow, dull and un-removed as Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Saruman in LOTR. The problem with true love is and always will be the fact that we cannot distance ourselves from it enough to see it honestly. In fact in the film, Guthrie falls in love with a man simply because he smiles at her, apparently. Teenage girls the World over, let me tell you, if all a man can offer you is a pretty smile and his body – run. True love is made up of far more components than that.

Davies is seemingly so caught up in his own emotional response to the source material that he has entirely forgotten about ours.

Oh fucking hell… another door to walk through – wait there…

Or he doesn’t care.

Much like Hannah no longer cares about this review.

The saving grace, if it can be called that, is Deyn’s performance in the central role. Although the script is bad and Davies has decided to dial her character up to ten from the opening shot giving her nowhere to go, she manages to pull out a credible, varied and natural performance. If anyone wants proof that this Model can act, they will have no doubts after this. That’s if they anyone hates themselves enough to waste two hours and 15 minutes to prove it. My advice, find her actors show-reel and watch that instead.

Hannah finally arrives at work; she opens yet another door as she ponders this thought: If life were a film it would surely be as long and tedious as this one…

The door closes behind her.

Sunset Song at IMDb

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