Bait (2019)

There’s something anachronistic about its visual style, but Mark Jenkin’s modern 16mm experiment about social tensions in an English fishing village largely impresses with its extraordinary use of nearly all manner of montage. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Mark Jenkin
2019 | UK | Drama/Experimental | 89 mins | 1.33:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for some coarse language

Cast: Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine, Simon Shepherd
Plot: Martin is a fisherman without a boat, his brother Steven having re-purposed it as a tourist tripper. With their childhood home now a get-away for London money, Martin is displaced to the estate above the harbour.
Awards: Won Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer & Nom. for Outstanding British Film of the Year (BAFTAs); Official Selection (Berlin)
International Sales: The Festival Company

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex/Elliptical
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

If anyone were to teach the principles of montage (particularly the theories of Soviet montage) as applied in a modern film, Bait will be a fantastic recent case study. 

Mark Jenkin’s experimental drama, shot in 16mm by himself (he also wrote, edited and scored the film), is not for everyone, but should at the very least interest indie enthusiasts.  Its BAFTA win for ‘Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer’ will also slightly widen its marketability. 

The film centers on Martin Ward as a gruff-looking fisherman whose livelihood is affected when his brother uses their boat as a tourist tripper.  As played by Edward Rowe in his feature acting debut, Martin doesn’t have many lines but a stern glance from him says much about his frustration. 

“I haven’t lost me temper yet!”

Set and filmed in Cornwall, UK, where it is known for its picturesque harbour villages, Bait is as much a bold aesthetic exercise as it is a social commentary on current tensions in relation to how the influx of tourism is ruining the ‘eco/nomy/system’ of these fishing villages. 

There is also an indirect commentary on class issues as well, with most of these (much richer) tourists coming from elsewhere, including London. 

While its anachronistic visual style is beguiling, Bait is not necessarily always compelling if its conspicuous editing style takes you away from the plot-light narrative (there’s not much to anchor the viewer in terms of story). 

Still, Jenkin’s unconventional work will impress viewers who can appreciate its full commitment to using film language to communicate its main theme deeply. 

Grade: B+




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