An adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel, which originally made it to BBC for a short series in the early seventies, Terrence Davies’ take is stagey in places but he does encourage a terrific performance from relative newcomer, former model Agyness Deyn, who excels in the role of proto feminist Chris Guthrie.
et on a wind-swept Scottish countryside somewhere near Aberdeen at the turn of the twentieth century, Chris Guthrie (Deyn) is the daughter to a gruff Bull McCabe type (Mullan) who beats his son (Jack Greenless) and rapes his wife, Jean (This Life’s Daniela Nardini). When Jean kills herself, her brother leaves, and the younger kids handed over to extended family, Chris is forced to put aside her dreams of becoming a teacher to help her cruel father work the farm. When he suffers a stroke, Chris surprises everyone when she assumes control of the property. She catches the eye of handsome farmhand Ewan (Guthrie) but then word reaches the community that England is at war with Germany with pressure on the peaceful Ewan to enlist…

erence Davies is a director who does what he wants, when he wants. The story unfolds at its own pace with the romance not rearing its head until the halfway mark and is then, in contrary to ‘the rules’, allowed to blossom unhindered. However, the writer-director takes writing against screenwriting principles a little too far when he gives the film’s big climactic emotional scene to a supporting character and not his resilient hero.
he unbreakable connection between Chris and the land is something that just doesn’t click. Davies works hard at it, bringing a Malickian sweep to the surrounding fields (cinematographer Michael McDonough certainly earns his corn with the exteriors), and has Chris prone to the occasional rumination on the land in her flowery narration. Perhaps Davies didn’t want to overegg that pudding, or perhaps Deyn, talented that she is (her flair lies in the inner strength that’s just behind the eyes) couldn’t connect her character and the land but the sod and Chris remain two different entities.
ut credit to Davies that he manages to make the whopping 135 minutes, which are largely set in the confines of the farmhouse, involving to the end.