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Gwen Review

October 25, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
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Gwen Review  

Gwen Review

Eleanor Worthington-Cox– Gwen
Maxine Peake– Elen
Mark Lewis Jones– Mr. Wynne
Richard Harrington– Edward Morris
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith– Doctor Wren
Richard Elfyn– Minister Bowen
Jodie Innes– Mari

Directed by William McGregor
Screenplay by William McGregor

Distributed by RLJ Entertainment

Not Rated
Runtime– 84 minutes

Buy it here or watch it on Shudder


Gwen, written and directed by William McGregor, is not a horror movie. It isn’t a thriller, either. I’m not really sure what it is. Maybe. It’s beautiful to look at and, on a technical level, is superb. As entertainment, it’s seriously lacking. You think that, since it’s being marketed to the world as a horror movie or some sort, that it could be one of those slow burn deals where, by the end, there’s some huge revelation or payoff. Unfortunately, it’s a slow burn to nowhere. Even as a drama, which is what I think it might be, it isn’t all that engaging. It is beautiful to look at, though. I have to give the movie that.

Gwen stars Eleanor Worthington-Cox as Gwen, the teen daughter of a woman, Elen (Maxine Peake), who is trying to hold her family together as her husband is off fighting a war somewhere (the movie takes place in rural Wales at some point during the start of the Industrial Revolution, so, I guess that could be anywhere from the late 100’s to the mid-1800’s. The movie doesn’t really make the exact time period clear). Gwen, Elen, and the youngest daughter Mari (Jodie Innes) spend all of their time taking care of the family farm, herding sheep and growing vegetables for market and shit like that. Once a week they walk to church, where everyone there is bombarded with fire and brimstone Christianity. It’s not a great life, but the family seems to like it.

One day, after a nearby family dies from cholera, strange shit starts to happen at Gwen’s farm. Gwen starts seeing weird people walking around in the mist at night. A cross is nailed to the front of the house and no one knows who did it. And someone kills all of their sheep. Who the hell would do that? And why would they do that? Gwen wants to know, but Elen keeps telling Gwen that she needs to listen and mind her own business. Elen will handle whatever the hell is going on.

So then some more stuff happens, Elen has multiple seizures that freak Gwen and Mari out, and suddenly Elen needs an expensive wine medicine that the family can’t really afford. And while all of that is happening, the town’s main rich businessman, Mr. Wynne (Mark Lewis Jones), wants Elen to sell him the family farm. Elen refuses, as she keeps saying that she wants to keep the farm for when her husband comes back from the war.

So what the hell is going on here? I really don’t know. I get that Elen doesn’t want to sell the farm to Wynne and that Elen wants to protect her kids from the bullshit that Wynne represents. I also get that, with her seizures and whatnot, Elen really can’t keep Gwen in the dark about what’s really going on. At the same time, there’s all this mysterious bullshit where Gwen catches Elen bleeding herself for some reason, and there’s a hint of the occult in the air. Is this black magic meant to somehow keep the evil Wynne away from the farm and the family? Or is this movie just a pretentious, mega downbeat pseudo western that takes place in Wales and features vague moments of supernatural hooha because there’s no way anyone would watch this movie without that supernatural hooha? Again, I don’t know. I don’t really understand what it is this movie is supposed to be.

The movie’s locations are gorgeous, and the cinematography by Adam Etherington is crisp and beautiful. You’re probably not going to see a better looking movie than Gwen, at least in the low budget, direct-to-video horror movie world of 2019. I just wish the story was more engaging and, well, understandable. There’s just nothing going on here.

Now, I suspect that writer/director McGregor really thinks that the performances he gets from his cast suggest that the movie has some sort of deeper meaning. Practically every scene Gwen and Elen are in is quiet and slow, with Worthington-Cox and Peake either staring at someone or something before saying anything, or engaging in what can only be described as an extended pregnant pause for minutes at a time. When things do start happening, like Elen ordering Gwen to gather up the dead sheep because they have to be burned, or Elen flipping out on Gwen for poking around the dead family’s house, those sequences don’t really lead to anything. It’s just stuff that happens.

The performances are all super subdued. No one really stands out. Everyone is just sort of existing in the time period depicted. That’s sort of interesting until the movie’s mid-point, when you start to realize that there’s a chance that nothing is going to happen in this movie. And when you do find out that nothing really happens, well, you’ll wonder why anyone wanted to be in this movie in the first place. I mean, sure, it’s a job, but what are these characters supposed to be experiencing? Just what the hell is the point of this movie?

Again, I just don’t know. I don’t get it.

I really wish I could be more positive about this movie. It’s obvious that writer/director McGregor knows how to create atmosphere and he can make a movie look amazing, but beyond that stuff there’s really nothing to Gwen. It’s just something that exists, like the characters existing in the time period of the movie. And that’s a shame.

Gwen isn’t very good. I’m not even sure I can classify it as a movie. It’s just something that exists. Only see it if you’re curious about it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 7

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Sisters playing in a field somewhere, dead body collecting, praying, complaining about a ruined supper, talk of potatoes, a small cross on the wall, singing, chicken feeding, sheep herding, finger pricking, using blood to create rosy cheeks, a noise in the background, more kids fucking around, a small heart nailed to the door, heart burning, attempted nail removal, weird candle burning, of screen wood cutting with an axe, an old gold locket thing, sisters fucking around at bedtime, a field of dead sheep, dead sheep burning, digging for skulls, skull smashing, slow motion skull bits throwing, snow, maggot covered food, an argument, a slow motion flashback of Gwen’s father fucking around with the family around a giant stone thing, hair washing, multiple seizures, slightly unsettling singing, soup making, a man walking through the fog, silent eating, bleeding, attempted vegetable market, a wicked top hat, an injured horse, throat slitting, child abuse, hand washing, face washing, an old letter, screaming, cross burning, face slapping, axe to the door, serious kidney stabbing, more throat slitting, men with torches, cane across the face, and an ending.

Kim Richards?: Off screen.

Gratuitous: Rural Wales, church, men with serious fucking sideburns, potato picking, potato smashing, hair brushing, a dirty mirror, killing a baby sheep with a big rock, an abandoned house, removing feathers from a dead chicken, a young guy named Harry, a guy looking at a cross in the candle light for some reason, and an ending.

Best lines: “You should move on now, girls, it’s getting late,” “This is burnt. Sorry,” “I miss Dad,” “Madam, may I have a word?,” “Your feet are cold. Maybe I can warm them up a bit?,” “Burn them,” “What are you doing here?,” “Will you just do as I say?,” “You need to leave,” “Mom, let me go instead,” “Come and get your fresh vegetables! Any fresh veg for you today?,” “May I buy some carrots?,” “Did she finish the tonic wine?,” “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” “Did you steal the tonic wine?,” “I never meant to hurt you. I only ever wanted to protect you,” and “Torch the house! Burn it down!”

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Gwen is not a horror movie. It’s not a thriller. I’m not really sure what it is (it might be some sort of dark drama, but I’m not really sure about that). It’s beautiful to look at, and it’s obvious that writer/director William McGregor has some talent. But Gwen is just a misfire. I have no idea who this movie is meant for. It just boggles the mind. Only see it if you’re curious about it.

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Gwen, Bryan Kristopowitz