Directed by Terence Davies.
With Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, Jeremy Irvine, Kate Phillips, Gemma Jones, Simon Russell Beale and Ben Daniels.
The story of English poet, writer and soldier Siegfried Sassoon.
Terence Davies has left an indelible mark on the landscape of British cinema over the past four decades with many acclaimed films including The deep blue sea, distant voices, Still lifes and The long day is over. Davies’ films are known for being semi-biographical and often reference cinema with a focus on post-war Britain. His latest is Blessinga biopic of war poet Siegfried Sassoon chronicling his years in World War I and his post-war life and social circle with a young Sassoon played by Jack Lowden and an aging Siegfried played by Peter Capaldi.
One of the challenges facing Blessing is perhaps there is greater awareness around his wartime exploits and his friendship with the famous war poet Wilfred Owen. The couple’s friendship is touched upon but perhaps doesn’t play as much of a role as one might expect, despite being responsible for some of the film’s most impactful moments around Owen’s poem Disabled.
Instead, the film cuts between Sassoon’s somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and the social circles he maintained after the war, including his relationships with Stephen Tennant and Ivor Novello. On the final day, Sassoon appears sullen and we see some of his strained relationship with his son George as he comes to terms with his inheritance and the loss of his loved ones. It seems Davies channeled some of his own issues with his sexuality into the film, and perhaps feels like Sassoon’s life mirrors his own.
Lowden’s performance shows why he rose to prominence for several years following roles in fight with my family, Dunkirk and Steve McQueen small ax. He is able to fully show the difficult nature of Sassoon’s mental state and his many failed relationships which left deep scars, associated of course with the impact of his time in the war and the loss of his friend Wilfred Owen. . Young Sassoon’s optimism and desire for a happy life are devastatingly undermined by world-weariness and Capaldi’s lackluster performance of which Siegfried seems bereft of happiness and unable to care for himself, a silent presence whispering barely a word. A number of famous actors, including Simon Russell Beale, with the small but crucial role of Robbie Ross who was a crucial ally of Siegfried’s family, ensured that he was not punished for his openly anti stance. -war.
While the film is largely set after the war, the influence of the war on Siegfried’s life is tangible throughout, further underscored by archival footage intercut by Davies which shows the horrors faced by many and the lasting effect on many, not just Sassoon. The film’s final moments are incredibly moving and build to a devastating crescendo as it grapples with a life marked by sadness and darkness.
Benediction is a moving and sometimes devastating portrait of a renowned artist struggling with his own mortality, sexuality and sense of purpose. It acts as an insight into one of Britain’s most renowned poets whose private life may be unfamiliar to many and does an excellent job of capturing the hedonistic lifestyle of post-war British literary circles. . The performances of the protagonists, especially Jack Lowden, help give this a real sense of tragedy and captivate the audience. The film fully captures the spirit of the times with a sense of the collective sadness felt by the nation after World War I and the desire for young people to have fun. If it’s a little too long, Blessing certainly perpetuates Davie’s exquisite filmography showing him once again as a master of his craft and one of Britain’s finest and most important directors.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★