Bait Review

In a Cornish village, locals who make a living from fishing are threatened by a burgeoning tourist trade created by urban invaders. Fisherman-without-a-boat Martin (Edward Rowe) declares war on a particular family, partly driven by displaced grief. Meanwhile, his brother Steven (Giles King) has sold out and his apprentice (Isaac Woodvine) is enjoying a summer romance with the family's daughter (Georgia Ellery).

by Sophie Monks Kaufman |
Published on
Release Date:

30 Aug 2019

Original Title:


What is cinema for? To delight? To tell stories? To illuminate the rifts in this fractured world? By any of these measures, Bait is a triumph. It is powered by social tensions. In one corner: down-on-his-luck local fisherman Martin (Rowe on tragicomic form). In the other: the forces of gentrification as embodied by the Leighs, an out-of-towner family — reasonable mother (Mary Woodvine), smug father (Simon Shepherd), lusty daughter (Georgia Ellery), gormless son (Jowan Jacobs) — who bought 'Skipper's Cottage' from Martin and his estranged brother to rent out to holiday-makers.

A timely social portrait and a timeless work of art.

Shot on black and white 16mm film, later hand-processed by director Jenkin, and with a soundscape fully created in post-production, Bait harmonises every element of cinema to create a shiver-inducing ambience which lends heft to the emotions at play. Jenkin (a prolific short-maker) uses his social set-up to create a symbolic battle that resonates in a post-austerity UK where the gulf between rich and poor only seems to grow, yet his characters are shaded by enough humanity to make their reactions unpredictable. Tensions are often undercut by scalding comedy. Choice line: “How's she going to suck his dick with that plum in her mouth?”

Each sequence is full of overwhelmingly pleasurable visual texture thanks to the prickly romance of the black-and-white grain and Jenkin's rapturous framing. Everything – a pint of beer, lapping waves, brooding faces – is captured with an infectious love of tactile detail. Such technique is a joy to behold in service of a story where personal sorrow and absurd humour bleeds into the complexity of community, making for a timely social portrait and a timeless work of art.

A rare find that is a truly original feature by a British director. Bait ferments weighty social themes into cinema so intoxicating it changes your blood-alcohol levels.
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