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The Crack Magazine

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Benediction

Director: Terence Davies

Stars: Jack Lowden, Matthew Tennyson, Kate Phillips, Jeremy Irvine, Calam Lynch

Heartfelt and elegiac but hugely disappointing, Terence Davies’ portrait of War Poet Siegfried Sassoon and his social circle of wits, artist and aristos, surprisingly the director’s first with an openly queer character, is a dramatically inert and poorly-scripted slog. The framing device has Sassoon (Lowden) convalescing in a veteran’s hospital. His recently published poems about the incompetence of military top brass have just caused a considerable stir. Also convalescing is fellow poet Wilfred Owen (Tennyson) and the two form a close relationship. The narrative intermittently skips back to illustrate other episodes from Sassoon’s life, his marriage to Hester (Phillips), and his relationships with petulant songwriter Ivor Novello (Irvine) and blithe aristocrat Stephen Tennant (Lynch). Interspersed throughout is real-life footage of WW1 soldiers accompanied by Lowden’s readings of Sassoon’s poetry, easily the strongest moments in an otherwise cluttered and rudderless film. The dialogue is sometimes perfunctory (Have you met TE Lawrence?’ ‘Of Arabia?’) or riddled with sub-Wildean catty aphorisms with characters often clearly ventriloquizing for Davies. When you have a character delivering a withering Lady Bracknell-style putdown of somewhere ghastly and provincial, it’s clear that genuine inspiration is running low.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm

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