Benediction – Film Review

One of the oldest forms of literature is poetry, with examples being found to be created thousands of years ago. Siegfried Sassoon was an incredibly well known and talented war poet, crafting his works from his experiences in World War I and the years following.

Writer and director Terrence Davies draws inspiration from Siegfried’s life for his biographical film, Benediction. In the film, we meet Siegfried after he has already returned from the war and has become a conscientious objector to its continuation. He continues to write and publish his poetry, gaining some fame along the way while spending time in a military psychiatric camp.

While in the camp, Siegfried Sassoon meets Wilfred Owen, who introduces him to the world of theatre and into London’s high society. The film then delves into Sassoon’s many relationships over his lifeline, taking a heavy focus on Ivor Novello, and the many years of ups and downs their relationship takes.

Jack Lowden stars as Siegfried Sassoon, for the most part, playing the younger years of Sassoon’s life. Peter Capaldi stars as his older self, as the film jumps back and forth between periods of time. Jack Lowden did a great job in his role of Siegfried, delivering quite an impressive performance, but I found Capaldi’s to be a little lacklustre and stiff. Jeremy Irvine stars as theatre actor Ivor Novello, who is honestly portrayed as a quite vile human being. I found him to be incredibly vain and sociopathic, especially in his intimate relationships, jumping from man to man without any sort of remorse.

Throughout the film there are many segments of actors, Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi reading Sassoon’s poems regularly with archive war footage playing as the visual. This made the film feel a little disjointed and tacky, like someone’s high school multimedia project stolen from YouTube. I can understand what the filmmakers were aiming for here, but unfortunately, they missed the mark, and it brings the film down with it.

While the premise sounds good, I really did not enjoy this film. It felt really dull and drab, looking like it was filmed with a lot of poor lightning. Many of the scenes had a real theatre stage vibe to them, I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but I found it didn’t really suit the film nor did it hold my attention at all.

Clocking in at just over 2 hours and 15 minutes, Benediction is quite a long film, and boy, does it feel it too! Honestly, after the first 45, the film just seems to jump from relationship to relationship, kind of going in circles. I felt absolutely no connection to these characters. I should have felt sorry for Siegfried Sassoon and everything that he had gone through with the war, time in the psychiatric camp and more, but I really just could not get onboard and connect with any of the characters. 

I do have to admit, I’m just not a huge fan of these biographical period pieces, so maybe I am being a little harsh on this film and the creators. If you are a fan of this genre, maybe give Benediction a watch and see what you think. Benediction is in cinemas from June 9th.

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