Bait – Film Review
Director: Mark Jenkin
Writer: Mark Jenkin
Stars: Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine, Simon Shepherd
This film arrives with a massive weight of expectation from reviews such as this one by Mark Kermode in the Guardian where he described it as “one of the defining British films of the decade” and a “genuine modern masterpiece”. Kermode is not a lone voice though, as Kevin Maher of the Times described it as “one of the most extraordinary movie experiences of the year”. Philip De Semlyen of Time Out added to the glowing praise, calling it a “quietly thrilling piece of modern filmmaking”. So is it worth the hype?
Well, it’s certainly original! The film is by writer/ director Mark Jenkin, who was a relative unknown until this point. It is his breakthrough feature and with the variety of glowing praise it is receiving, he’s destined to be a new voice in British film. Shot in black and white 16mm stock, it has an authentic look of a film from 50 years ago, which is the aesthetic the filmmakers are looking for. You do spend the first ten minutes of the film wondering what era it is set in, but it seems to be present day, with a mention of a certain referendum at one point!
The story tells of a once prosperous fishing village in Cornwall which has turned into a tourist destination for the smart set from London. They travel with their organic blueberries and bottles of champagne to take over the location for several months during the summer, much to the annoyance of the local inhabitants. We meet Martin Ward (Edward Rowe), our main protagonist who still makes his living as a fisherman despite not owning a boat! His older brother Steven (Giles King) is now using their late father’s boat to give tours around the coastline to stag parties and other groups of tourists. Martin sells the fish he catches to the local pub and also door to door. He puts his earnings into a re-purposed biscuit tin with the word ‘Boat’ written on top of it, as he saves his money for a future purchase.
The film has a lot of style and many interesting touches. As the film stock bubbles and flashes, we are allowed to see glimpses of the future, as the filmmakers give us images of events yet to occur. There are long, lingering shots, as the camera dwells far too long on smiling cast members or close-ups of hands. The director Jenkins has obviously studied the language of film from another age and is using it in this feature. It will remind you of the 1934 release ‘Man of Aran’ as much as anything more recent.
It is a genuine oddity and is quite inventive in many ways despite its budget. The weight of expectation may end up crushing it though, as many will attend expecting to be dazzled. It is worth seeing, but you’d be wise to lower your expectations and see it for what it is, a low budget art house film that is trying something new.