Near the end of WWI, the poet Siegfried Sassoon (Wilby) arrives at Craiglockhart Castle, Edinburgh, a military hospital where pioneering psychiatrist William Rivers (Pryce) tends shell-shocked victims of the trenches. Not that Sassoon needs treatment: having published a pamphlet opposing the war, he's been diplomatically dispatched to hospital rather than prison. His 'convalescence' brings him into contact with another writer, Wilfred Owen (Bunce), whose poetry Sassoon encourages. Rivers, meanwhile, is heading for a breakdown of his own, brought on less by overwork than his empathy with traumatised patients like Billy Prior (Miller), a working class officer rendered mute by his battlefield experiences. Adapted by Allan Scott from Pat Barker's acclaimed novel, MacKinnon's film is subtle, elegant and sharply intelligent. Aided by marvellous performances all round, MacKinnon has fashioned a profoundly moving film that never resorts to manipulative cliché. The trenches are impressively recreated in flashback, but even more affecting are those intimate scenes which suggest that such horrors will never lose their grip on those who have survived them.
Cast and crew
Jonny Lee Miller