Directed by Terence Davis.
Starring Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, Jeremy Irvine, Kate Phillips, Gemma Jones, Simon Russell Beale and Ben Daniels.
The story of the English poet, writer and soldier Siegfried Sassoon.
Terence Davies has left an indelible mark on the British film scene over the last four decades with numerous acclaimed films, including deep blue sea, distant voices, Still lives Y The long day closes. Davies’ films are notable for being semi-biographical and often referencing cinema with a focus on post-war Britain. The last of him is Blessinga biopic of war poet Siegfried Sassoon chronicling his years in World War I and his life and social circle after the war with a younger Sassoon played by Jack Lowden and an aged Siegfried played by Peter Capaldi.
One of the challenges facing Blessing it is perhaps that there is a greater awareness surrounding his war exploits and his friendship with the renowned war poet Wilfred Owen. The pair’s friendship is mentioned, but perhaps doesn’t play as big a role as one might expect, though it is responsible for some of the film’s toughest moments revolving 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 last day, Sassoon appears sullen and we see some of his strained relationship with his son George as he comes to terms with his legacy and the loss of his loved ones. It seems that Davies has channeled some of his own questions with his sexuality in the film and perhaps feels that Sassoon’s life mirrors his own.
Lowden’s performance shows why he has been recognized for several years after his roles in fighting with my family, Dunkirk and Steve McQueen’s little ax. It can fully show the difficult nature of Sassoon’s state of mind and his many failed relationships that left deep scars, along 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 taciturn performance, whose Siegfried seems bereft of happiness and unable to care for himself, a silent presence who barely murmurs. a word. He is strongly supported by a number of celebrity actors, including Simon Russell Beale in the small but crucial role of Robbie Ross, who was a crucial ally of Siegfried’s family who ensured that he was not punished for his outspoken anti-war stance.
While the film largely takes place after the war, the war’s influence on Siegfried’s life is tangible throughout, further highlighted by Davies’ interspersed archive footage showing the horrors many encountered and the clear lasting effect it had on many, not just Sassoon. The film’s final moments are incredibly moving and build to a devastating crescendo as he 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 a glimpse behind one of Britain’s most renowned poets whose private life may be unfamiliar to many and does a fine job of capturing the hedonistic lifestyle of Britain’s post-war literary circles. The performances of the leads, particularly Jack Lowden, help to give it a real sense of tragedy and captivate the audience. The film fully captures the spirit of the times with a sense of collective sadness felt by the nation after World War I and the desire for young people to enjoy themselves. If it’s a bit too long, Blessing it certainly continues Davies’s exquisite filmography by showing him once again as a master of his craft and as one of Britain’s best and most important working directors.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★