Terence Davies
Born (1945-11-10) 10 November 1945 (age 77)
Liverpool, England
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, film director

Terence Davies (born 10 November 1945)[1] is an English screenwriter, film director, and novelist. He is best known as the writer and director of autobiographical films, including Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The Long Day Closes (1992) and the collage film, Of Time and the City (2008), as well as literature adaptations, such as The House of Mirth (2000).

Early years

Davies was born in Kensington, Liverpool, Merseyside, the youngest of ten children of working-class Catholic parents.[2] Though he was raised Catholic by his deeply religious mother, at the age of 22 he rejected religion and considered himself an atheist.[3][4] Davies' father, whom Terence remembers as "psychotic", died of cancer when Davies was seven years old. From then until he entered boarding school at the age of 11, he remembers as the four happiest years of his life.[3]


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 that introduction to film-making, Davies attended the National Film School, completing Madonna and Child (1980), a continuation of the story of Davies' 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 speculates about the circumstances of his death. Those 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, frequently explores gay themes in his films.[5][2]

Davies' 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, 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".[6] In 2002, critics polled for Sight & Sound ranked Distant Voices, Still Lives as the ninth-best film of the previous 25 years.[7] Jean-Luc Godard, often dismissive of British cinema in general, singled out Distant Voices, Still Lives as an exception, calling it "magnificent". The Long Day Closes was also praised by J. Hoberman as "Davies' most autobiographical and fully achieved work".[8]

Davies' 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.[9]

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 Davies' narration as a paean to Liverpool. It received positive reviews on its premiere.[10]

The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play by Terence Rattigan, was commissioned by the Rattigan Trust. The film was met with widespread acclaim, 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.[11] Davies eventually found finance for Sunset Song in 2012 and it went into production in 2014.[12][13] In October 2014 the film went into post-production.[14] It was released in 2015.[13] Davies' next film was A Quiet Passion, based on the life of the American poet Emily Dickinson. His 2021 film Benediction told the story of the British war poet Siegfried Sassoon.


Year Title Notes
1976 Children short
1980 Madonna and Child short
1983 Death and Transfiguration short
1988 Distant Voices, Still Lives
1992 The Long Day Closes
1995 The Neon Bible
2000 The House of Mirth
2008 Of Time and the City documentary
2011 The Deep Blue Sea
2015 Sunset Song
2016 A Quiet Passion
2021 Benediction


Year Title Notes
1984 Hallelujah Now[15] novel
1992 A Modest Pageant[15] collected screenplays

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1983 Chicago International Film Festival Best Feature The Terence Davies Trilogy Nominated
1988 Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize Distant Voices, Still Lives Won
1988 César Award Best European Film Nominated
1988 Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard Won
1988 Toronto International Film Festival International Critics' Award Won
1988 European Film Award Best Film Nominated
1988 Best Director Nominated
1988 Best Music Nominated
1989 London Film Critics Circle Award Best Film Won
1989 Best Director Won
1989 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Foreign Language Film Won
1990 Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film Nominated
1990 Belgian Film Critics Association Grand Prix Won
1990 Amanda Award, Norway Best International Film Won
1992 Evening Standard British Film Award Best Screenplay The Long Day Closes Won
1992 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Nominated
1995 The Neon Bible Nominated
2000 USC Scripter Award The House of Mirth Nominated
2000 Satellite Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2000 London Film Critics Circle Award British Director of the Year Nominated
2000 New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Director Nominated
2000 British Film Institute Award Best British Independent Film Nominated
2001 British Academy Film Awards Best British Film Won
2007 British Academy Film Awards British Film Institute Fellowship Won
2008 London Film Critics Circle Award British Director of the Year Of Time and the City Nominated
2009 New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Non-Fiction Film Nominated
2009 Chicago International Film Festival Best Documentary Nominated
2009 Australian Film Critics Association Award Best Documentary Nominated
2011 BFI London Film Festival Best Film Award The Deep Blue Sea Nominated
2012 Munich Film Festival Best International Film Nominated
2012 Cinequest Film Festival Maverick Spirit Award Won
2016 BFI London Film Festival Best Film A Quiet Passion Nominated
2017 Dublin Film Critics' Circle Best Screenplay Nominated


  1. ^ Debrett's People of Today – Terence Davies Esq. Archived 14 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Ellis, Jim (11 November 2004). "Davies, Terence" (PDF). An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b Ryan Gilbey (20 May 2022). "Terence Davies on sex, death and Benediction". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Intensive Care, the autobiographical radio feature that Davies wrote and narrated for BBC Radio 3 (broadcast 17 April 2010)
  5. ^ Hattenstone, Simon (20 October 2006). "Bigmouth strikes again". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  6. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (18 August 1989). "Distant Voices, Still Lives". Chicago: Chicago Reader. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  7. ^ James, Nick (2002). "Modern Times". London: BFI's Sight & Sound. Archived from the original on 4 July 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  8. ^ Hoberman, Jim (23 March 2012). "The Inner Light of Terence Davies". New York: NYRblog. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Village Voice Critics Poll". New York: The Village Voice. 2000. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  10. ^ Ide, Wendy (20 May 2008). "Of Time and the City". London: Times.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  11. ^ Scott, A.O. (22 March 2012). "The Deep Blue Sea". New York: NYTimes. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  12. ^ The Guardian
  13. ^ a b The Hollywood Reporter
  14. ^ Hurricanefilms.net
  15. ^ a b "Amazon.co.uk: Terence Davies: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle". Amazon UK. Archived from the original on 11 September 2021.