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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: Gwen

Director: William McGregor
Screenplay: William McGregor
Year: 2019

Synopsis: During the industrial revolution and while his father is away fighting in a conflict, Gwen alongside his mother and younger sister must take charge of their farm. As if it was part of a curse, the farm’s production worsens every day, as well as her mom’s health. All this happens while the family is pressured to sell the farm to establish a quarry in its place.

“Gwen” takes place in a remote area of Wales, where the writer/director William McGregor combines folk horror with gothic drama and ads a pinch of Western frontier desolation to create a very atmospheric and visually striking piece. The story starts in a pleasant tone and we see two young girls playing in a beautiful hill with an impressive landscape, Once this scene goes by, the tone starts transforming into a more sober, sad, and dark one.

In the middle of the industrial revolution, Gwen alongside her mother and young sister, live on a farm in an area of interest for the development of a quarry. With her father away from home fighting in a conflict, the weight of managing the farm proves to be too much for the three of them. On top of that, a series of events take place that harm their farm and increases the pressure to sell it to the investors of the quarry. 

A combination of anguish and stress drive Gwen’s mother, Elen, interpreted by Maxine Peake (“The Theory of Everything”), to get sick. Under these circumstances, Gwen is forced to take on the responsibilities of an adult to take care of her mother and younger sister, but faces a great challenge, as her mother does not see her as an adult and in town, no one is sympathetic with their situation. To make matters worse, Gwen has to see as her farm and family keeps suffering by her inability to control what is going on, that seems to be part of a curse, and that leads her to face emotions premature to her age. 

The tension is palpable since the first minute and its maintained that way until the anti-climactic ending; an admirable task. The problem is that it seems like McGregor didn’t knew what to do with this tension and it is wasted. Instead of a horror movie, it resembles more a historical drama that in parts suggests the probability of something supernatural to be involved, but that soon is cleared out the reason for the events that lead you to believe this. 

Another problem of the movie, which can be more subjective, is that the ending is very anti-climactic, and doesn’t feel to be at the same level as the tension and suggestions developed throughout the movie. Peake as well as Eleanor Worthington-Cox (“Maleficent”), interpreting Gwen, do a flawless job in acting but their efforts were not taken as much advantage as it could because of a script that lacked a more concrete path. During several sequences in the movie, some events are presented that suggest something is happening, but the idea is not thoroughly developed and is thrown out.

“Gwen” as a historical drama movie surely would have received a better score from me, but as a horror movie, it misses on too many aspects. It does an excellent job developing tension but later dispels it in an ending that doesn’t feel in sync with this level of tension. The story is a slow burn, and in the end, it doesn’t offer a reward for the patience, Now, the cinematography, acting, and the story, to a certain extent, are superbly well developed, just that not like a horror movie.

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