VOD film review: Bait
Ivan Radford | On 11, Jan 2020Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Mark Jenkin
Cast: Edward Rowe, Giles King, Mary Woodvine, Simon Shepherd
Watch Bait online in the UK: BFI Player+ / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
“You didn’t have to sell us this house,” say Tim (Simon Shepherd) and Sandra (Mary Woodvine) to Martin Ward (Edward Rowe), a local from a picturesque fishing village in Cornwall. The cottage once belonged to Martin and his brother, Stephen (Giles King), but both of them have found themselves on the wrong side of gentrification.
That word, and its sanitised double-meaning, are at the heart of Bait, a spiky, timely and tension-filled drama about the growing divide in this once-united community. A fishing village that once made its living from seafood has become a tourist hub, with second home-owners from out of town buying up the old homes to turn them into holiday rentals. Pricing locals out of the market, the generations who have resided there have been pushed to the estates on the fringes, leaving the original properties for people who can’t even understand the Cornish accent.
For Martin, it’s an act of hostility and invasion, a theft of his identity and heritage by strangers. Martin is a fisherman without a fishing boat, a man reduced to throwing his net into the sea overnight and hoping to catch something.
Bait steeps us in his world-view, but it’s a better film that simply restricting us to one perspective. Stephen, much to the consternation of Martin, has moved with the times: the owner of their late father’s boat, he makes a living by giving visitors cruises. Where one of them is marooned, the other is adrift, their “Skipper’s Cottage” occupied by the foreign Leigh family – Tim, Sandra and their daughter, Katie (Georgia Ellery).
Even these interlopers, though, aren’t just cardboard cut-out villains. While Simon Shepherd brilliantly plays Tim with annoying and patronisingly calm air of superiority, Mary Woodvine’s Sandra is far more aware of the complexities in the shifting face of the village and more thoughtful in the way she deals with Martin.
Linking the two is Neil (Issac Woodvine), Stephen’s son, who starts dating Katie, but also prefers to help Martin with the fish than go on cruises with his dad. More than just a plot device, his presence brings an ambiguity and hint of hope to the future, a contrast to the sarcastic bitterness of bartender Wenna (Chloe Endean).
The resulting clash of ideas and experiences drives up the suspense to violent conclusions, but it’s watching the tiny collisions along the way that keeps you riveted. Mark Jenkins shot the whole thing on 16mm monochrome film and hand processed it, bringing a warmth to the gorgeous seaside backdrop, one that’s tinged with nostalgia even as the cracks and tears in the very fabric of the movie suggest its falling apart. The cast bring a deliberate note of artifice to each fractured exchange, with slightly stilted style of delivery that keeps you as uncomfortable as the displaced locals, and as unwelcome as the vacationers – a microcosm of a society where the very question of belonging remains unanswered. “You didn’t have to sell us this house,” say Tim and Sandra. Martin stares back with melancholic resentment. “Didn’t I?”
Bait is available exclusively on BFI Player, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription. It is available to buy and rent on DVD and other online platforms on 20th January.