Film Review: Enys Men | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 9th, 2023  

Enys Men

Studio: Neon
Director: Mark Jenkin

Mar 27, 2023 Web Exclusive
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In 2019, having released his debut film, Golden Burn, 17 years earlier, British director Mark Jenkin released his breakthrough feature, Bait, a black-and-white social realist tale of the conflicts caused by gentrification and deindustrialization in his native Cornwall in southwestern England. The film received widespread acclaim when it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, earning the praise of Quentin Tarantino before going on to become the biggest Cornish film ever at the UK box office and winning Jenkin a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut.

Jenkin’s eagerly awaited follow-up, Enys Men, is a folk horror set on an uninhabited island off the coast of Cornwall in 1973. It stars his partner, Mary Woodvine, as a volunteer who monitors wildlife at a remote cottage and finds herself mentally tormented by a series of disturbing images. These images become so vivid that she finds herself wondering if they are real or not, and she is eventually brought to the brink of sanity. As he did in Bait, Jenkin (in his capacity as both cinematographer and director) utilizes grainy 16mm film stock to create some arresting and darkly captivating imagery. The anachronistic look this gives the action helps to maintain the verisimilitude of the film’s period recreation.

Unfortunately, the film as a whole does a sub-par job of engaging the viewer in The Volunteer’s situation. Despite such an intriguing premise, Woodvine’s performance does not make the viewer care much about the character or what happens to her. The visuals and sound design are absolutely top-notch, as were Bait’s, with Richard Butler’s dubbing work proving particularly effective. However, unlike that film, which sutured the viewer into its characters’ world and made audiences empathize with their predicaments very well, Enys Men portrays its protagonist far too ambiguously to generate much in the way of audience identification.

The technical elements of the film are flawless and the location shooting demonstrates a real local’s knowledge of the setting. It is also great to see Mary Woodvine’s veteran character actor father John Woodvine (previously known for his work in ‘80s cult classics An American Werewolf in London and Edge of Darkness) back on our screens in his role as The Preacher. Nevertheless, whilst Jenkin succeeds in establishing a surreal and macabre atmosphere in Enys Men, this does not compensate for the film’s lack of engaging plot or characters.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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