starring: jack lowden, jeremy irvine, calam lynch, and peter capaldi
REVIEWER: lyall carter
The story of English poet, writer and soldier Siegfried Sassoon.
A complex man who survived the horrors of fighting in the First World War, Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden / Peter Capaldi), a soldier decorated for his bravery on the battlefield, became a vocal critic of the government’s continuation of the war when he returned from service. Legendary still today for his poetry inspired by his experiences on the Western Front, he was adored by both members of the aristocracy as well as stars of London’s literary and theatre scene. He embarked on affairs with several high-profile men as he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality, whilst at the same time, broken by the horrors of war, his life’s journey became a quest for salvation.
Benediction is one of those rare films that has seemed to be lost from modern cinema. With a two and a half hour running time it joyously rambles through the life of celebrated war hero and poet Siegfried Sassoon, taking the time to dwell on both the horror, joy and complexity which was his life.
And we don’t find it in ham-fisted and obvious exposition but in the development of the characters within, the dexterity of their prose and the silences between characters that speaks volumes. Benediction has some of the most divine and quick witted dialogue in recent cinematic memory, as the bright young things of the Roaring Twenties London trade silver tongued gilded quips and withering insults.
Benediction also serves as a reflection on the first World War as director Terrence Davies uses real life footage and photographs alongside Sassoon’s poems to aptly describe the utter horror of the war through the loss of life and the scars, both mentally and physically, that it inflicted on those who survived.
Jack Lowden is an actor that is certainly on the rise and this lead performance cements that. Here he embodies Sassoon with a fierce moral defiance in the face of the proponents of the war and a sharp, cutting wit that hides a fragile, tortured soul. Lowden magnificently allows us glimpses of that brokenness behind the fortress of his intelligence which is never melodramatic but purely masterful.
Benediction allows us to view the world through the eyes of acclaimed poet Siegfried Sasson, in a film peppered equally with witty dialogue and sorrow, anchored by a star making turn from Jack Lowden.