To say that I was looking forward to Sunset Song would be an immense understatement. Hearing the divisive response that it garnered from its viewers when it played at TIFF last Fall just made me even more excited to check out the latest from Terence Davies. Unfortunately, I found myself on the side of the spectrum that I was desperately hoping that I wouldn’t fall on.
I found myself enjoying a majority of the first half, but after the pivotal wedding scene, everything began to go downhill for me. Davies chronicles the life of a girl named Chris starting at the end of high school in the early 1900s and follows her life for a span of many years. While some scenes leading up to her wedding do linger on for far too long, Sunset Song moves along at a palatable speed for the first half.
After the wedding, Davies begins to move time at a much more rapid rate, which jumbled the way that I was used to processing the film up to that point. The first half not only moves time at much slower rate, but Davies also shows us some of the long-term effects of the events that take place early in the film. I found that after the pivotal wedding scenes, Davies begins to focus much more on the overall metaphor that he is trying to get across in his sprawling tale and not so much about his central character.
There is an entirely uncharacteristic switch in a character’s behavior that marks the beginning of the third act that took the film for even more of a nosedive. Not only does this switch in behavior feel completely out of tone with the film, but it also drives the film in such an agonizing direction. Davies presents so many absurdly clichéd metaphors as well that the authentic presentation that he established in the first half feels like a complete waste of time.
While portions of the film are quite the slog to get through, the gorgeous cinematography and production design are so immensely beautiful that I cannot help but suggest for all those that are interested to see this in a theater. It will without a doubt play differently for everyone, and I am actually very interested to see how this will play for my peers. Sunset Song is something that does deserve your time, despite the fact that it did not work for me personally.