22 March 2020
Mark Jenkin’s debut feature is a wonderful experiment in form. Beneath its surface also lies a story full of immediacy. Sadly, their marriage is quite rocky like the Cornish coast on which the film is set. While the early cinema aesthetics largely hold up, with a heavily scratched Kodak stock, jumpy editing, non-diegetic soundtrack, and the wooden acting (in a good way) make this look fairly authentic. But occasionally Jenkin couldn’t help but overdo the effects. I loved the premonition-filled narrative additions, but they were not always effective.
There is a clear political undertone that is at play here where Edward Rowe plays a local fisherman named Martin who had to sell his parents’ home to a well-off London family that runs it as a holiday rental. His brother is using their family’s fishing boat for “hospitality” and Martin’s only hope to catch fish is whilst he is on land. The London vs countryside tension, depicted as subtle as a bugle in a museum, would have played better with a little bit more time spent on more nuanced acting than on deadpan reactions the entire cast adopt.
Its aesthetic choices, beyond its brave experimentation, also feel inauthentic. Films from early twentieth century benefit from their temporal context, but here it feels narcissistic and superfulous.
As an experiment, it works. It reminded me Chris Parker’s La Jetee in its formal elements, but whereas that film benefited massively from a shorter running time, Bait’s experimentation overstays its welcome pretty quickly.