Terence Davies’ latest period biopic Benediction is comparable to his last feature, A Quiet Passion, though this movie is much better and says a lot more about its subject.
Writer/director Davies (Sunset Song) chronicles the life of war poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden of Tommy’s Honour). Viewers receive a peek of Sassoon’s life before being enlisted in WWI, but Benediction primarily focuses on his life after denouncing the role of war and being sent to a psychiatric hospital. From there, the closeted Sassoon acquaints himself with friends and romantic interests as the movie works towards a more-experienced, older Siegfried (former Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi) as he contemplates potential regrets.
While Davies’ direction is still very dry and suggests the filmmaker’s style may be better suited for the stage, his screenplay for Benediction is among the best of the year. It’s cleverly written with sophisticated dialogue, and the screenwriter is in tune with the sensitivity of each character. The quarrels between Siegfried and his lovers, as dramatized as they may be, ring with sincerity as well. There’s also a nuanced, prevalent theme running throughout the writing that speaks to the vulnerability of men trying to communicate with each other. The movie positions Sassoon as someone who has always had an interest in men, yet he consistently comes up short when trying to find a worthwhile connection. It’s a heartbreaking arc that adds volume to the movie’s emotional core.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie