Benediction – Chicago Reader

British writer-director Terence Davies’ films often evoke the spirit of memory games, looking back at the past with an eerie confession that what happens there has lingered long after. This is usually implied, as many of his films are set firmly in a bygone era and do not explicitly refer to a later distance from the central action; in this biographical triumphal procession the subject – the English soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon (excellently played as a young man by Jack Lowden), whose mighty objection to World War I forced his superlative, however – is expressly depicted as an older man (played by Peter Capaldi ) thinking back to his life. Davies wryly mixes such scenes between the events of his younger years, from Sassoon’s time during the war to his incarceration in a mental hospital in the wake of his conscientious objection to the various relationships he had with men (including entertainer Ivor Novello, socialite Stephen Tennant , and a tentative spell with fellow soldier poet Wilfred Owen) before finally marrying a woman. The recount is tinged with documentary footage (à la Davies’s Of time and the city [2008]) and an almost experimental scintilla trying to visualize the poetry indicating that this is something exceptional of a master’s intellect, comparable to what he achieved in A silent passion (2016). What it reveals about its heart, obvious to anyone familiar with Davies’ biography, is perhaps one of the most personal revelations from an artist for whom there is no other way of creating. PG-13, 137 minutes.

Gene Siskel Film Center

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