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BBFC RatingBenediction

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Director(s)Terence Davies
Writer(s)Terence Davies
CountryUnited Kingdom, USA
Running Time2HR 17MINS
SeasonMain Programme

Benediction explores the turbulent life of First World War poet, Siegfried Sassoon, through the eyes of the revered filmmaker Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives), starring Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, Jeremy Irvine and Julian Sands.

Convalescing in a veterans’ hospital, and conveniently out of the public eye after publishing work that was sharply critical of the military decision-makers, Sasoon meets Wilfred Owen, a tender first relationship (if more of mind than body).

Employing a signature collage-style narrative that intercuts dramatic scenes with more expressive sequences, Davies counterpoints key moments in Sassoon’s life – his relationships with Ivor Novello and the aristocrat Stephen Tennant, as well as his later marriage to a woman – with beautiful readings of his poetry over montages of real images of soldiers in wartime.

Benediction is a master class in cinematic craft. The performances, most especially those of Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) and Peter Capaldi as the younger and older Sassoon, respectively, are at once delicate and brimming with unruly emotion.

It’s a moving tribute to Sassoon, who grew to old age with bitter regret, having been unable to love and desire freely. It is also an elegant, mournful work that reflects on British queer histories.

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