Bait (2019)

Mark Jenkins directs Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine and Isaac Woodvine in this low budget British drama where a boatless Cornish fisherman struggles against gentrification.

A gunless Western. A kitchen sink drama where everyone works. Filmed on 16mm film and hand processed, with dialogue roughly looped in, this handcrafted black and white gem has an appropriate rough hewn quality. The images feel like puzzles, obfuscated by dancing grain and extreme close ups of enigmatic faces. The sound bites lurch in with an intentional comic effect. Tension defused by a humdrum interaction. Like protagonist Martin, when the film speaks it is worth listening to, there’s a blunt humour in its observations. Part of Bait’s thrall is every time you think you know where it’s headed, it switches on you. The editing is teasingly elliptical, owing to Nicolas Roeg and Alain Resnais. You get glimpses of the future, some misleading. Martin for example consistently proves he isn’t the townie brute he is easily seen as. It is a bit of a deadpan gem, a tragedy that undermines its form by often dodging the brewing violence. We used to get a low budget release like this every year. The Cement Garden, 24-7, Following, The Last Great Wilderness. Those micro budget directors went on to great things. Bait feels like an echo from that recent past when we had a new talent nurturing strand of British cinema. Bait is now a rarity. A DIY triumph, a word of mouth hit, a new voice full of promise, that somehow blundered into a cinema run through sheer force of quality. Amid pensioner targeted fluff boxes and popular TV show spin-offs, surely there’s more room for this kinda promising debut on the release schedules too?

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