Legendary British director Terence Davies is back with an elegiac biographical film. Filmed in Birmingham, ‘Benediction’ was recently reviewed by the Mirror’s Film and TV writer Lewis Knight, who called it “incredibly moving and beautifully realised”, with a lead (Jack Lowden) who “has never been better”. Read the full review below:

 

Amid the horrors of the First World War, poet and writer Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden) takes a stand against the futility of the conflict but finds himself sent to a convalescence home. It is here that Siegfried makes a powerful connection with a fellow soldier and writer Wilfred Owen (Matthew Tennyson), one which he will struggle to match in the romances to come.

After the war, Siegfried finds himself caught up in romances with the likes of roguish musician Ivor Novello (Jeremy Irvine), thoughtful actor Glen Byam Shaw (Tom Blyth), and the hedonistic socialite Stephen Tennant (Calam Lynch). Amidst this emotional turmoil, the film flashes forward to a more senior Siegfried (Peter Capaldi) as he reflects on his romances, marriage, war experience and identity.

Appropriately, Benediction feels like the sum of Davies’ filmmaking thus far. Intercutting the vividly observed dramatic sequences with stunningly edited newsreel and first-hand footage of the Western Front during the Great War, Davies sheds off any initial feeling of a docudrama to create an emotional odyssey grounded in tragedy.

There are also more lyrical and expressionist sequences but not in an over-abundance, instead creating short and sharp punches of dreamlike reflection.

Exploring sexuality, masculinity, gay romance, the need to conform and the weight of responsibility, Davies continues to examine themes he knows all too well and does so expertly.

Despite being well-acted, directed and written, one must question, however, whether the scenes featuring the older Sassoon are necessary to truly capture the character’s sadness as there is enough material in abundance to put across the poet’s heartache.

Regardless, the film still succeeds at delivering a compelling portrait of a literary titan. Jack Lowden offers his most powerful and emotionally wrought performance to date as Sassoon, delivering subtlety and naturalism until the floodgates open.

The entire supporting ensemble is also at the top of their game. A special shout-out should be given to Irvine who has never had such a ball as here, portraying a narcissistic and capricious Ivor Novello with aplomb beneath layers of thick black eye-liner.

Elsewhere, Calam Lynch also delivers charisma and theatricality as the larger-than-life Stephen Tennant, whose own vanity just leaps off the screen in spades.

Ultimately, this is Lowden’s chance to shine and thanks to the non-linear and emotionally-driven structure, Davies avoids the reeling of an episodic reel of various romances and instead uses them to add extra shades to a portrait of Sassoon.

The final devastating shot of Lowden will be what lingers long in the memory.

Verdict

Benediction is an incredibly moving and beautifully realised biopic of Siegfried Sassoon from director Terence Davies and star Jack Lowden has never been better.

 

Source: www.mirror.co.uk

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