A movie that’s sure to enrage some, captivate others, and stun everyone, Bridgend puts a fictional filmic face on the alarmingly high suicide rate in the eponymous Welsh town. With Danish director Jeppe Ronde at the wheel, Bridgend offers no real answers as to why so many teens took their own lives between 2007 and 2012, instead setting the scene with the unbalanced youths of the community, before eventually meandering into avant-garde, fever dream territory.
Game of Thrones star Hannah Murray plays Sara – a young girl who moves from Bristol with her father to the community of Bridgend. Murray is nothing short of superb in the role, putting in a suitably low-key performance required for a nervous, fish-out-of-water teenager tentatively attempting to blend in with a new, unfamiliar social group. Sara quickly discover that the cider-swilling hoodie bearers that she finds herself in the company of are quite different to typical working-class youths, and is left to stand nonplussed as the group wail at a shrine of a friend who’d hung himself just days before. Yet, after being quickly accepted into the gang and becoming utterly infatuated with one boy, Sara finds herself becoming gradually engulfed by the strange, dark youth culture of the town. Before long she too is wailing ritualistically at shrines as the suicides continue.
Typically a documentary filmmaker by trade, Ronde is used to getting up close and personal with his subjects, and for Bridgend supposedly did six years’ worth of research on the local community. Yet the project always seems once removed from the location itself, depicting the town as something almost dreamlike with every passing frame. The murky cinematography portrays the dark stretches of Welsh countryside as both ominous and entrancing all at once; showing shadowy stretches of track that lead to nowhere and twinkling rivers that trickle around them. It is this imagery, along with the focused beams of light from torches and headlights, that render the film highly reminiscent of Ben Wheatley’s chilling Kill List – another example of British drama-cum-horror that descends into absurd, nightmarish territory in its third act. Bridgend shares the disturbing atmosphere of Wheatley’s movie by leaving everything open-ended; leaving the viewer to stew in visceral horror after originally starting off in broody British drama.
Bridgend doesn’t provide any concrete answers as to exactly what happened in this Welsh community, or why the suicide rate skyrocketed to horrific figures during a five-year period. But what Ronde’s movie does do is show how humans – especially confused, muddled, hormone-riddled teens – feel an uncontrollable desire to belong and be part of something. Even if that something is haunting, dark and tragic, which nobody quite understands.
Bridgend does not yet have a confirmed date of release.
Watch the trailer for Bridgend here: