There is a lot to love about Gwen, the feature directing debut from William McGregor. Is it a thriller with supernatural elements or is it a straight ahead drama centering on a family tragedy?
Gwen centers on the titular character (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), a young girl whose family is coming apart at the seams in 19th century Snowdonia. Her father has been absent for a spell, and her strict mother Elen (Maxine Peake) is constantly ordering Gwen to get things done. Gwen also has a younger sister (Jodie Innes), and when their mother falls ill, she must find the strength to go into town and find elixir for her mother as well as try to make some coin for them to live.
But it’s rough going in this bleak and drab (but thanks to cinematographer Adam Etherington, visually immersive) environment, and it seems that nothing is ever going to work out for Gwen and her family.
Director/writer William McGregor delivers a slow build approach to his narrative, and the commendable sound and production design gives viewers an air of foreboding and suffocation. Gwen also gives off a haunting, supernatural vibe, and throughout the picture we are guessing if that element actually exists. With villagers in the town angling for Gwen and her family to leave the property, maybe the true evil is birthed from greedy capitalists!
Seeing everything through Gwen’s eyes is also hard to stomach, as watching a child endure continued tragedy isn’t a pleasurable watch. That being said, Worthington-Cox is definitely an actor to watch, as she absolutely carries the film with conviction.
McGregor knows how to pace a narrative and infuse it with eye catching compositions, and since he’s credited as a director on the upcoming series His Dark Materials, his talent has been noticed. That being said, I was a tad underwhelmed by the final moments of Gwen. Even though it didn’t deliver a knockout punch, the feature is still worth a look thanks to McGregor’s skillful direction and the excellent (and lived in) performances from Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Maxine Peake. I just wanted a bit more fireworks, but it’s hard to find any light amidst the darkness.
Special features on both the Blu-ray and DVD versions include separate interviews with Maxine Peake and Eleanor Worthington-Cox.
Gwen is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. A review copy of the Blu-ray was provided by via RLJE Films.
Rating: 3 out of 5