Gwen is a well-crafted story of fear, suspicion and isolation, nestled deep within the picturesque Snowdonian mountains. Here, in a ramshackle farmhouse, the mundane quickly becomes sinister. Laughter turns into screaming, a passerby becomes a threat and reality and nightmare bleed into each other.
The film follows the story of the eponymous protagonist (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), the young yet hopeful daughter of Elen (Maxine Peake), struggling to navigate in the absence of her father, who is away at war. Dealing with financial threat and the very real reality that they may soon lose their beloved farm, Gwen’s issues are only amplified by the ill health of her mother and the secrecy surrounding just what is happening in Snowdonia.
One morning, they wake up to find their sheep have been slaughtered. Their crops are not growing properly. Mysterious figures haunt the farmyard at night.
Gwen (and the audience) want answers – but we rarely get them. The mystery of the folklore movie is much like the fog that hangs in the air: everpresent. Whilst writer-director William McGregor presents a narrative with multiple twists, he does not pander to the audience. Some things happen without explanation, blurring once more the boundary between the natural and the supernatural.
The movie is not without its strengths. Worthington-Cox brings a beautiful sincerity to the role of Gwen, showing great potential within the young actress. Peake is sharp and wily as the Dickensian, overbearing mother figure, albeit underused in places. The connection between the family feels real and it is refreshing to see a female-fronted cast within the horror genre. What’s more, the cinematography is stunning.
However, on occasions, it feels as though the feature relies too heavily on the cinematography as opposed to the narrative. Though the film’s quiet moments are effective, there is room for dialogue and character development throughout.
Nevertheless, McGregor succeeds in creating a pseudo-political narrative with an appropriate mix of tension and jump-scares, leaving the audience guessing until the very end.
Gwen is released in select cinemas on 19th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for Gwen here: