The film scatters across time between Siegfried's younger and older selves: at one point, the youthful Jack Lowden (playing the former) visibly transforms into the gravelly, embittered Peter Capaldi (playing the latter).
But although this quiet biopic explores Siegfried’s existential trauma and conscientious scrutinies (leading to his incarceration), its focus is mostly on his relationships with men. Much of the second act is preoccupied with his secret yet transparent sexuality, leading to the sort of humour and heartbreak found in romantic comedies – but written with such delicate pathos.
His time with actor and singer Ivor Novello (portrayed by War Horse’s Jeremy Irvine) proves a toxic affair. Siegfried has to face the disappointment of falling in love, under such risk, with a hateful specimen of humanity.
Lowden embodies all those buried anxieties, insecure yet intensely romantic and intelligent. Capaldi is a crushing contrast: angry, silent, trying to make sense of ‘the enigma of other people’ – Siegfried’s former youth drained away. In dousing hopes of a contented ending, Davies avoids the Hollywood illusions of finding a light in the darkness of a tortured life and then concluding with it. As a result, Benediction is a reserved, humble, and even funny portrait of the poet.
Benediction is out now in UK cinemas.
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20 May 22 – 20 May 23, IN CINEMAS
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