Positive and beautiful, Gwen has a truly ethereal feel to the way it manifests on screen
Understanding a budget, and what a feature can become with that constraint, is vital for those working with minute or small fund values, and to an extent branches upwards to blockbusters failing because they simply have too much money to force through the kinds of difficult and sharp decisions that have to be made when working under tight conditions.
Gwen offers a truly unique look at 19th century Britain, as it opens a view of rural farm living in North Wales, with strong horror and thriller elements intertwined into the story. Gwen (Eleanor Worthington Cox) lives with her mother Elen (Maxine Peake) and younger sister Mary, waiting for their father to return from an extended trip away. Pestered by the local townspeople desperate for their land to mine, the family dynamic is put under extreme stress, causing severe deterioration to Elen’s health.
The horror is perhaps a little lacking, with a strong shift towards the building of both tension and fear throughout, avoiding outright horror imagery for almost the entire piece. The extreme restrictions on its usage works particularly well, with the moments of sheer terror becoming vividly chilling. Theme-wise, Gwen is a marvellously thick production.
However, it does suffer from a lack of substance in its actual story. With a purposefully limited sense of dictation, there is often little more than the strong themes coming from the piece. Mist and darkness cover much of the feature, and its brooding sensuality is enough to propel the themes, but also leave it feeling emptier than a feature of this nature naturally would. Gwen is hindered by its minimal usage of characters and major plot points in expanding what its trying to say. The feeling is right, but the substance lacks enough to stop the themes from saying anything overly powerful.
Positive and beautiful, Gwen has a truly ethereal feel to the way it manifests on screen, many major horrors would launch themselves at the opportunity for anything as outwardly engaging. But by becoming so limited by its story, Gwen fails to materialise into the masterpiece it looked as if it could be.
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