Rent Benediction (2021)

3.0 of 5 from 207 ratings
2h 17min
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"Benediction" explores the turbulent life of First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (Peter Capaldi / Jack Lowden). Having survived the horrors of fighting in the First World War, he was decorated for his bravery and became a vocal critic of the government's continuation of the war when he returned from service. His poetry was inspired by his experiences on the Western Front and he became one of the leading war poets of the era. Adored by members of the aristocracy as well as stars of London's literary and stage world, Sassoon embarked on affairs with several notable men as he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality.
At the same time, broken by the horror of war, his life became a quest for salvation, trying to find it within the conformity of marriage and religion. His is the story of a troubled man in a fractured world, searching for peace and self acceptance, something which speaks as meaningfully to us in the modern world as it did then.
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Michael Elliott
Terence Davies
People of the Pictures, Remembering Julian Sands and Frederic Forrest
Release Date:
Run Time:
137 minutes
English Audio Description, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.39:1

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Reviews (7) of Benediction

Ambitious piece but fails to do justice to Sassoon - Benediction review by PD

Spoiler Alert

Terence Davies' ambitious piece centres on the life of the celebrated poet Sigfried Sassoon, played (in his younger years) by Jack Lowden. Lowden gives us a pretty convincing performance, but the problem for me lies in the overall format and the script. Davies spends a good deal of the film for example focusing on how Sassoon's time serving in the military during World War One shaped the rest of his life by editing black and white archival footage of the conflict (along with lengthy extracts from the poetry) - and whilst this certainly allows the film to break free of the expectations of the 'biopic' genre, for me only means that the film ends up between two stools - being neither a traditional period piece nor a indepth artistic study of Sassoon's soul.

The war hospital scenes in Scotland where Sassoon gets 'treated' and where he meets Wilfred Owen suffer by comparison with Gillies McKinnon's 1997 piece 'Regeneration', and the exploration of Sassoon’s love affairs in the ’20s and ’30s with such luminaries as actor and musical composer Ivor Novello, Ivor’s ex, Glen Byam Shaw, and Stephen Tenant is all a bit predictable and stilted. Lengthy musical interludes try the patience at times, and the screenplay often fails to do justice to the roll-call of famous people name-dropped by the shovelful. We then are fast-forwarded to the ’60s, where an obviously more bitter Sassoon (played by Peter Capaldi) broods over the pieces of his life. Davies plays quite a lot with the history here, insinuating that Sassoon was unhappy in these later years because he married a woman and is looking for salvation by converting to Catholicism, but key details are missing, and despite Capaldi’s fine work, it’s a crucial aspect of the film that doesn’t seem to resonate with the rest of the narrative.

The film strongly suggests that Sassoon’s “shadow gay life” before his marriage is a respite from the horrific memories of the Great War (evident in his prose), but it falters by simply trying to document so much of his story, which appears difficult to accomplish in even a 2 hour and 17-minute runtime (and it felt longer, I'm afraid). Despite Davis’ thoughtful direction, too much of the script is ultimately too Merchant-Ivory light for what is clearly striving to be a definitive portrait of an exceptional talent, and means that the intended emotional climax falls rather flat, sadly. Frustrating viewing, ultimately.

6 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

Misfiring, Overlong, Confused Siegfried Sassoon Biopic - Benediction review by PV

Spoiler Alert

Somewhere in this mess of a movie there is a decent Siegfried Sassoon biopic trying to get out.

The main problem is this: it's 3 films trying to be one. The first is the best and should have been the whole film - how posh privileged Sassoon has his eyes opened by the first World War, where he showed great bravery (at Mametz Wood, where he dragged back several British/Welsh soldiers under fire and miraculously survived without any injury) and then campaigns against the war, so is sent to a clinic for shellshock where he meets Wilfred Sassoon. There. That s a good film.

Unfortunately, there is a second film then which revolves around the love-lives of posh entitled wasters, gay and straight, which is all totally tiresome and beyond boring. Ivor Novello (real name David Davies, Welsh actor/songwriter of slush) gets made the baddie here (he cannot sue coz he is long dead!); Oscar Wilde's loyal friend Robbie Ross features here as an older man but in real life he died in 1918! if you are interested in the lovelives of spoilt, camp, b-tchy, entitled tedious art Deco darlings & posh dropouts who never had to work for a living and never did anything useful, then this bit is for you.

Third, we have a woefully miscast Peter Capaldi playing the older Sassoon. This film shows him living in a suburban semi; in real life he inherited a massive estate from an aunt and lives there,. Siegfried Sassoon's parents were posh and wealthy, father from a super-rich Bagdad Jewish family; mother from an ancient family of sculptors who have served royalty since 14th C. Not council estate stuff then.

The second half of this flabby self-indulgent film - and no surprise it is state-funded by BBC, BFI, Lottery etc - is mind-numbingly tedious. Dates on scenes would help. As would titles on poems (though Sassoon is a middling poet and not a patch on Wilfred Owen).

It is further spoiled by daft colourblind casting - no, Sassoon was not welcomed into the Catholic faith by a black priest and there were NO black/Asian patients being treated for shellshock at the Scottish clinic he was sent to. This attempt to create a fake BAME history is so dishonest and tantamount to fraud. Just wrong.

A shame this is such a disappointment but there are some good WWI films out there. 2 stars.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Dead - Benediction review by AER

Spoiler Alert

Despite attempts by Jack Lowden to breathe air and life into Terence Davies' film Benediction, this is dead/ No heartbeat can be detected in the string of long scenes marred by stilted acting and a plodding narrative structure. A good start only highlights that there isn't all that much to say about Siegfried Sassoon's life beyond his WW1 period as a thwarted conscientious objector. Now we know why the usually fantastic Peter Capaldi only usually plays Scotsmen - he can't do accents. Very disappointing.

3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

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