Friday, July 17, 2015

Fantasia Film Festival 2015 Film Review - Bridgend

Sara (Hannah Murray) is the new girl in town in the Welsh Valley community of Bridgend. She arrives with her police detective widower dad (Steven Waddington) and her horse Snowy. A grey dreary atmosphere hovers above the town that's experiencing a high number of teen suicide deaths. The count hit 23 when Sara and her dad pulled into the driveway of their new residence.

Sara meets her peers in her first few days of school. Laurel (Elinor Crawley) finds Sara at the stable where she's grooming Snowy inviting her to the main hangout spot in the woods by the lake.  The area is also the location where most of the teens committed suicide usually leaving no note. There she meets the rest of the group and has an immediate connection with both Thomas (Scott Arthur) the apparent leader of the group and Jamie (Josh O'Conner) who is more of a quiet brooder. The lake is the private domain of the troop where they skinny dip, drink, smoke and build bonfires. As they leave at the end of Sara's first visit they pass the shrine at the spot where the last victim Mark took his life. The teens lift their heads to the sky and shout out his name at the top of their lungs in a ritualistic fashion all except Sara who is still new to the behaviour.

Writer/Director Jeppe Ronde adapts a story that dominated the headlines in the area. The Bridgend Suicide Incidents as they are known peaked between 2007 and 2009 when almost all of the deaths were by hanging. Cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jonk work stands out in the feature. A lot of the action is shot in the woods. Jonk's use of natural lighting and shadows in the forest catches the viewers eye from the opening frame of the piece. The film also uses as a device scenes shot through window panes as a character looks through to observe unfolding events.

The ensemble cast handle their roles well. Hannah Murray of Skins and Game of Thorns fame character Sara shows key instances of growth throughout the film as she draws closer to the fold. Adrian Rawlins is notable in a smaller role as the local Vicar and Jamie's dad. He tries to reach out to the teens to offer support from the Church but is mocked by the group often with Jamie standing quietly by.

Bridgend is an eerie obsessive feature that brings the viewer deeper into the increasing groupthink of the Valley teens. Their activities are pack like with severe consequence inflicted on anyone showing a desire to depart the circle. Director Ronde presents the material plainly. The production does not put their slant on the events. The closest comment to a reason comes from Jamie when he responds that their view is not what this is to a theory presented by an adult.

*** Out of 4.

Bridgend | Jeppe Ronde | Denmark | 2015 | 93 minutes.

Tags; Suicide, Cult, Wales, The Valley, Teens, Woods, Ritual, Police, Church.

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