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Movie Review

Release Date: 06/03/22 [In Cinemas]

Genre: Biography/Drama/War

Studio: Roadside Attractions


"Legendary 20th Century war poet Siegfried Sassoon's life-long quest for personal salvation through his experiences with family, war, his writing, and destructive relationships goes unresolved, never realizing it can only come from within."


Have you ever watched a film and come away from it thinking that it may have thought too much of itself? As if it got lost in its own ego? That’s how I felt after watching Terence Davies' Benediction. A film that is well done in every sense, except in making me personally care for the story and its lead; it left me frustrated with the level of self-indulgence that it expels. 


This is not to say that everyone will come away with similar thoughts and feelings after viewing Benediction, yet I could not ignore them as they were my main thoughts and issues. As I mentioned, the film does everything remarkably, from the performances, and cinematography, to the direction. It looks pristine and virtually all the film's cylinders are firing in sync with one another. What didn’t work for me is the story. Benediction takes place in Britain mainly after the first world war, a young Siegfried Sassoon played by Jack Lowden a poet and scholar that served during the war and thus sees the toll it was taking while politicians and leaders used it for political gain and power, decides he can no longer support it, feeling the need to speak out on it through his poetry. It’s not that poetry itself, or poetic thematics in films are not my forte, in this case, it felt like the film went overboard with it, where the issue of self-indulgence this film exudes is Siegfried Sassoon himself. Although the film is about more than the poems of Sassoon, we are shown expanded moments from his life experiences, peering into some of the war poet’s disastrous relationships as well as his writing career. This is a man who struggled with his own homosexuality his whole life but more so struggled to accept himself and find personal happiness, so he takes it out on those around him. Not that it’s hard to watch a character be nasty or judgemental to others, but it does make it complex to sympathize with that individual. 

Terence Davies’ script flips back and forth between young Siegfried and an older Siegfried (Peter Capaldi). Both Capaldi and Lowden are brilliant in the biographical role, from the little knowledge I learned of Siegfried Sassoon while researching for this film review, his achievements and role in history were important during his time, the lifelong struggle to find self-acceptance and love in a world that isn’t always the most understanding, an issue that is still relevant to many in modern society. Yet it seems he was a very difficult person to be around and Benediction definitely portrays that very well thanks to its leads in Lowden and Capaldi.


As intelligent and well regarded as his writings were, Sassoon as a person is arrogant, high-handed, self-loathing, bitter, and more, making caring for the film’s biographical storyline a rather large obstacle to clear. Benediction wants you to be impressed with everything it displays, including its subject, but when that doesn't connect, most of the other impressive and excellent aspects of the film fall to the wayside.

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