Although Jack Lowden is often talked about as a potential Bond, the super-talented actor doesn’t need a franchise to put him on the map. At 31, he’s as charismatic as Tom Hiddleston and as daring as Simon Pegg. This goes very well for this nimble portrait of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon. Lowden’s persuasion plays a playful charmer who, in the face of horror, doesn’t know whether to laugh or not. shout.

Despite being filled with grand houses and beautiful buns, the latest offer from British writer and director Terence Davies will never seduce the Downton Abbey set. It’s too experimental; too slow. It also won’t convert those who find The Deep Blue Sea and/or A Quiet Passion’s history uneven. But if you love Davies, you know what to expect and are conveyed by scenes that suggest deep emotions, as opposed to nailing them.

Sassoon closed, became a major opponent of the war, (as well as the showers that perpetuated it), ended up in a mental hospital where he met gays, was educated at home. water, Wilfred Owen (Matthew Tennyson; wary as timid as a meerkat). In a moment of awe and near silence, the poets glided past each other in a swimming pool. The camera, from above, captured the tadpole couple’s twist and the fact that after their heads were almost touching, Owen was smiling. The real-life Owen once wrote that he views Sassoon as “Keats + Christ… + Amenophis IV on file”. Davies didn’t call those words. A poet in his own right, he doesn’t have to.

Owen (easily more talented than Sassoon, as Benediction seems happy to admit), is the key element to another phenomenal shot. At the end of the film, we hear Owen’s poem The Disabled, and glimpse a working class, soldier in a wheelchair, left in the cold as night falls. A few seconds later, it was Sassoon sitting in the dark, body not intact, mind nothing like. For Davies, both the soldier and Sassoon are victims of a brand of evil hypocrisy. England, here, is a country that worships battle but is repelled by battle, a country that idolizes men, except when they idolize each other. (Julian Sands excels as a homophobic official, who all but doubles in disgust at the sight of a gay tango.)

The music, as always with this director, provides lovely vibes. Archive footage of cattle and British soldiers being treated like cattle, accompanies the song, Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend), released in 1950 by Vaughn Monroe. This stupidity is excessively. Its American. However, it’s perfect.

The blessing comes only as it seeks to excite us with a love life between Sassoon’s wartime and the ensuing annoyance of God. Apparently Siegfried has terrible taste in men, and we are encouraged to booze two of his wild, promiscuous, and malicious mistresses. Although Jeremy Irvine and Calam Lynch (as Ivor Novello and Stephen Tennant) did too much of their part, it was the script’s fault. We can’t tell if the characters’ bitchy one-word lines are meant to be boring or engaging. If Davies is trying to prove just how empty these pretty boys are, he’s rushed to the point. If the plan to have their Wildean wits double as guilty pleasure, then Davies should have worked harder on the jokes. There are modern writers (hello, Alan Bennett) who can match Wilde. Davies is not one of them.

Even if it doesn’t sparkle, the dialogue in these “roaring 20s” segments is well worth it. After Sassoon mentions gay young people, Hester (Kate Phillips), a teenage woman who will eventually become his wife, says, “I think everyone should be gay, right?” Our hero clumsily replied: “Only in a broader sense.”

We also have to care when in sullen, cranky middle age, Sassoon (now played by Peter Capaldi; wasteful), hangs out in a Catholic church. But his bewildering quest for redemption feels all too familiar. Meanwhile, there is no mention that Sassoon’s father, Alfred, is Jewish. Or Alfred converted, to marry Sassoon’s mother, to the absolute horror of his Orthodox family. It makes more sense for Sassoon from an Anglican-enhanced agnostic to become a Roman Catholic, once you know his history. Without that context, it’s confusing stuff.

So is Chau worth watching? At one point, Sassoon’s haughty best friend, Edith Sitwell (Lia Williams; nimble), admits her most recent work has been met with little more than raving enthusiasm. While firmly convinced that Façade – An Entertainment is a work of genius, she surprisingly repeats a wonderfully dull remark, made by a member of the audience: “That’s what makes people rejoice because they are half awake and half asleep.”

Some people will find passages in Chau Van hard to bear while sober, but at best, it’s very good. This is a historical drama that shows an iconic character becoming wither, instead of wiser. Davies is 76 years old. He may not have all the answers, but the questions he asks are timely and insightful.

137 min, cert 15. In the cinema


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