enys men | mark jenkin | mary woodvine | edward roe | flo crowe | isolated | isolation | united kingdom | john woodvine | joe gray | loveday twomlow | callum mitchell | morgan val baker | amanda rawling | dion star | isaac woodvine | folk horror
Film: Enys Men
Director: Mark Jenkin
Writer: Mark Jenkin
Starring: Mary Woodvine, Edward Roe and Flo Crowe
This is a movie that I saw part of the trailer and knew that I was going to go to the Gateway Film Center to see. My sister was in town and she came with me. What was another selling point was that Duncan from the Podcast Under the Stairs liked it so that was another thing in its favor. Despite what I’ve shared, I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting here. During a week when I didn’t have rewatch available, I decided to go around with this one a second time.
Synopsis: set in 1973 on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast, a wildlife volunteer’s daily observation of a rare flower turn into a metaphysical journey that forces her as well as the viewer to question what is real and what is a nightmare.
That is a great way to describe this movie. Our volunteer is played by Mary Woodvine. We see her over days as she goes about her routine. It is seeing this flower that is near the coast. She takes the temperature of the soil and notes if there are any changes. This goes on for a while as well. She also goes to an old mine shaft and drops a rock down it. What I’m gathering is that this island used to have a mining operation, but that closed up.
Her days are the same. She returns home, notes what happened in a journal. She has a generator that she uses, but limited fuel for it. This powers her short wave radio that she uses to communicate with the team that brings her supplies. We see this run when he brings more gas and food. This sailor is played by Edward Rowe. She also uses electricity to power another radio to listen to music.
There is finally a change that comes over the flower. Lichen seems to be growing on it. This isn’t the only place this fungus seems to be growing. Much like the synopsis set up, we don’t know what she is experiencing or thinks that she is. It truly becomes a nightmare of hallucinations and events of the past that led her to where she is today.
That is where I’ll leave my recap to the movie and introducing our lead character. We have a few others, but I’ll get into them shortly. Where I want to start is that I’m not entirely sure what I saw. My sister said the same thing as well. Let me start with the positives.
My favorite part are the visuals. This movie was made on film as there is a grainy look. This can be simulated, but it doesn’t feel like a filter. If it is, kudos to them. The cinematography is amazing though in setting up the isolation that the volunteer is going through. What I found interesting there is that it sets up what she does is boring. She does the same things every day, almost like us when we go to our job. The problem here is that she is alone. Her only interactions being over the radio. She does have another type of radio to listen to music to help break things up. Being alone with your thoughts this long can lead to what I’ll go into next. Seeing how bleak this place is and the isolation is good. I also thought that how things are edited were solid. That plays up the hallucinations and makes you question what is real or not. I’d also say that the sound design here is amazing. This is just well-made. It also brings vibes of folk horror as well.
Where I’ll then go is what I was alluding to, what happens to this volunteer on the island. I take it that due to her isolation and for how long she is there, she goes crazy. There is also the possibility that the lichen growing on the flowers could be causing her to hallucinate. There was an interesting angle here where I wonder if there was time travel. We hear over the radio about Enys Men. Thanks to Duncan chatting with Mark Jenkin, the writer/director, this is the name of the island. There was a group of miners that were trapped in the past. That would explain why she sees a miner played by Joe Gray. There was another tragedy about a boat that crashed, sharing the same name as the one that the sailor uses. By the end, I don’t think that is the case. I think there are different elements that are in her subconscious that are part of her hallucinations. They are being incorporated in.
There are other elements as well. I understood who the girl the volunteer sees is. This girl is played by Flo Crowe. There is also a preacher, played by John Woodvine, as well as a couple of groups. One is made of children and the other of women. I know the latter is from a cannister, with the brand using a logo of the old-timey women. The other seems like a cult of children of who follow a pagan religion. This plays back in with the folk horror aspects that our writer/director grew up with. During that interview, he said he didn’t even realize he incorporated things that stuck with him all these years. Now these things we see aren’t fully explained, but it does make for the eerie atmosphere we get. I should say that the acting is good. Woodvine carries it mostly, but Rowe, Crowe, John Woodvine, Gray and the rest are solid as well.
Now I do need to shift over to a negative. This movie is slow. I know that part of that is by design. This sucks you in with the repetitive nature of her task. Things then start to get odd and that ramps up until we get to the full-blown nightmare. I enjoyed coming on this ride, but I do think there are those that will not agree with there. This also makes the movie hard to talk about since it is more of an experience.
In conclusion, this is an odd film. I apologize for being repetitive, but this is one that you need to experience. Relaying what you see doesn’t carry the same effect. We are seeing a fever dream play out where we don’t know what is real or a nightmare. I did enjoy that. It does well in building the atmosphere with the images and the sound design. The acting is solid for what was needed. If I have an issue here, it is a bit slow. Now because of that, I can’t recommend this to everyone. I do think this is worth a watch if you want to see something a bit more avant-garde.
My Rating: 7 out of 10