Serious period drama is picturesque but slow-moving.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sunset Song is a period drama based on Lewis Grassic Gibbon's acclaimed novel about growing up in rural Scotland in the early 1900s. It centers on Chris, a young woman who's spent her whole life on the family farm. Her already-difficult lifestyle is made even more challenging by her violent, domineering father, and the movie has several scenes of surprisingly violent brutality -- including beatings, wartime shooting, the implication that a man is considering forcing himself on his teenage daughter, and a husband violently demanding sex from his unwilling wife. Brief scenes show full female nudity and a newlywed couple in bed. There's also some drinking and smoking and a few uses of the word "bitch."
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What's the Story?
In SUNSET SONG, Chris (Agyness Deyn) has spent her entire life on the family farm in rural Scotland, with a tyrannical father, a meek mother, and a brother who leaves as soon as he's able. It's a miserable life for Chris, and it gets even worse when one parent suddenly dies, and the other becomes an invalid. But there's something positive on the other side of her years of tragedy, and Chris is thrilled when she's left to run the farm on her own. Terence Davies directed this beautifully filmed period drama about Scotland in the early 20th century, based on Lewis Grassic Gibbon's acclaimed novel.
Is It Any Good?
This film is beautiful to see but tedious to watch. Overly long at two hours and 15 minutes, it sloooowly charts the drudgery of Chris' life -- and then just as sloooowly shows her optimism when she finally becomes independent. Not much happens. She meets a man, they fall in love, life is good, then it gets harder. There are few surprises and even fewer events that really capture viewers' attention.
And then there's the last third of Sunset Song, which is a tonal shock. Long sequences are given over to pastoral shots of the countryside, with voice-overs about Chris' inner life that might have looked poetic on the page but are too mawkish for the screen. Nonetheless, Deyn's supremacy over the movie's meandering pace manages to wrestle it from the brink; its stunning cinematography does, too. But only just.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about rural life in the early 20th century. How does Sunset Song portray farm life in that period? Does it make it look appealing?
What kind of options did a teenage girl like Chris have during the time the movie takes place? How have things changed? Do you consider her a strong female role model?
What do you think the movie is trying to say about the father's relationship to his wife and children? Did they have any way they could stand up to him? How does this kind of violence compare to other types of media violence? Which has more impact?
- In theaters: May 13, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 23, 2016
- Cast: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie
- Director: Terence Davies
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, History
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexuality, nudity and some violence
- Last updated: February 21, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Far from the Madding Crowd
Strong female role model in emotional literary adaptation.
The House of Mirth
A very worthwhile adaptation of Wharton's novel.
Mel Gibson's Oscared, bloody Scottish spectacle.
For kids who love drama
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