BAIT – Film review – By Joseph Pelan
Cornishman, comedian and actor Edward Rowe plays Martin Ward – a fisherman without a boat in director Martin Jenkin’s film Bait about a rising wave of gentrification threatening to break up a small Cornish fishing village’s conventional way of life.
Martin is a cove fisherman who is committed to continuing his late father’s vocation. Conflict exists between him and his brother Steven, played by Giles King – who has opted to repurpose their father’s vessel into a more lucrative cruise tour enterprise which seems to cater exclusively for rowdy stag dos. While Martin collects his ever-dwindling catch from his nets he watches on as his brother valets yobs, literally dressed up as knobs as they get pissed aboard the family’s legacy.
Steven’s son, Neil, played by Isaac Woodvine, wants to continue in the family tradition and is embarrassed by his father’s actions. He takes up fishing with his uncle Martin while at the same time striking up a relationship with Katie, played by actress Georgia Ellery, the daughter of a middle-class family that has recently moved to the area after purchasing the Ward’s old family home.
The film’s sound is added in post-production and utilises foley sound effects and quick editing resulting in a visceral gut punch to the senses. Jenkin’s intercuts the fractious themes of modernity, tradition and undercurrents of Brexit while his characters try to work out where they stand in a fast-changing environment which seemingly seeks to displace either one group or the other.
Bait is shot with a 1970s 16mm wind- up Bolex Camera. Jenkin’s processed the film using coffee, washing soda and vitamin C powder to purposely create surface damage to the celluloid resulting in a weather-worn look with scratches that flash like lightning across the screen, as if the film were salvaged from a beach following a storm, giving it a striking, atmospheric broodiness.
The film’s style mirrors its subject matter; an idyllic Cornish village beset with tension between the skint locals and plummy Londoners. The blow ins are intent on experiencing an authentic life within a Cornish community but contradictorily their efforts to do so simultaneously erode the authentic experience they are looking for as Airbnb lettings and private road signs impinge upon the local way of life. As Chloe Endean’s character, Wenna, a tough teenage girl from the village sarcastically notes, in a bar full of London accents. “They’re so posh, I thought they were speaking German.”
A somewhat anachronistic yet prescient quote for our time amidst the current political climate in Britain. This film successfully analyses a hostile environment in which the fear of the other exists between the inhabitants within its own native border.