Terence Davies

Terence Davies (born 10 November 1945)[1] is an English screenwriter, film director, novelist and actor. He is one of the most acclaimed British filmmakers of the present.[2][3] He is best known as the writer and director of Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992) as well the collage film Of Time and the City (2008).

Terence Davies
Born (1945-11-10) 10 November 1945
OccupationScreenwriter, film director

Early years

Davies was born in Kensington, Liverpool, Lancashire, the youngest of ten children of working-class Catholic parents.[4] Though he was raised Catholic by his deeply religious mother, he later rejected religion and considers himself an atheist.[5]


After leaving school at sixteen Davies worked for ten years as a shipping office clerk and as an unqualified accountant before leaving Liverpool to attend Coventry Drama School. While he was there he wrote the screenplay for what became his first autobiographical short, Children (1976), filmed under the auspices of the BFI Production Board. After this introduction to film-making Davies went to the National Film School, completing Madonna and Child (1980), a continuation of the story of Davies's alter ego, Robert Tucker, covering his years as a clerk in Liverpool. Three years later he completed the trilogy with Death and Transfiguration (1983), in which he hypothesizes the circumstances of his death. These works went on to be screened together at film festivals throughout Europe and North America as The Terence Davies Trilogy, winning numerous awards. Davies, who is gay,[6] frequently explores gay themes in his films.[4]

Due to funding difficulties and his refusal to compromise, Davies's output has been comparatively sporadic, with only seven feature films released to date.

Davies's first two features, Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes, are autobiographical films set in Liverpool in the 1940s and 1950s. In reviewing Distant Voices, Still Lives when it was first released Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that "years from now when practically all the other new movies currently playing are long forgotten, it will be remembered and treasured as one of the greatest of all English films".[7] In 2002 critics polled for Sight & Sound ranked Distant Voices, Still Lives as the ninth best film of the previous 25 years.[8] Jean-Luc Godard, often dismissive of British cinema in general, singled out Distant Voices, Still Lives as a major exception, calling it "magnificent". The Long Day Closes was also praised by J. Hoberman as "Davies'[s] most autobiographical and fully achieved work".[9]

Davies's next two features, The Neon Bible and The House of Mirth, were adaptations of novels by John Kennedy Toole and Edith Wharton respectively. The House of Mirth received favourable reviews, with Film Comment naming it one of the ten best films of 2000. Gillian Anderson won Best Performance in the Second Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll and the film was named the third best film of 2000 in the same poll.[10]

Soon after completing The House of Mirth Davies intended fifth feature was Sunset Song, an adaptation of the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Financing proved difficult as Scottish and international backers left the project after the BBC, Channel 4, and the UK Film Council each rejected proposals for final funds. Davies apparently considered Kirsten Dunst for the lead role before the project was postponed.

In the interim Davies produced two works for radio, A Walk to the Paradise Garden, an original radio play broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2001, and a two-part radio adaptation of Virginia Woolf's The Waves, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2007.

The long interval between films ended with his first documentary Of Time and the City, which was premiered out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. The work uses vintage newsreel footage, contemporary popular music and a narration by Davies himself as a paean to his hometown of Liverpool. It received positive reviews on its premiere.[11]

The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play by Terence Rattigan, was commissioned by the Rattigan Trust. The film was also met with widespread acclaim,[12] with Rachel Weisz winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and topping the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll for best lead female performance as well.

Davies eventually found finance for Sunset Song in 2012[13] and it went into production in 2014.[14] In October 2014 the film went into post-production.[15] It was released in 2015.[14]

Davies's next film was A Quiet Passion, based on the life of the American poet Emily Dickinson.


Awards and nominations



  1. Debrett's People of Today – Terence Davies Esq. Archived 14 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. https://www.criterion.com/films/27984-the-long-day-closes
  3. https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/five-sublime-sequences-terence-davies-films
  4. Ellis, Jim (11 November 2004). "Davies, Terence" (PDF). An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  5. Intensive Care, the autobiographical radio feature that Davies wrote and narrated for BBC Radio 3 (broadcast 17 April 2010)
  6. Hattenstone, Simon (20 October 2006). "Bigmouth strikes again". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  7. Rosenbaum, Jonathan (18 August 1989). "Distant Voices, Still Lives". Chicago: Chicago Reader. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  8. James, Nick (2002). "Modern Times". London: BFI's Sight & Sound. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  9. Hoberman, Jim (23 March 2012). "The Inner Light of Terence Davies". New York: NYRblog. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  10. "Village Voice Critics Poll". New York: The Village Voice. 2000. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  11. Ide, Wendy (20 May 2008). "Of Time and the City". London: Times.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  12. Scott, A.O. (22 March 2012). "The Deep Blue Sea". New York: NYTimes. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  13. The Guardian
  14. The Hollywood Reporter
  15. Hurricanefilms.net
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