GWEN (2018) is a British period film appearing to blend psychological and supernatural horror elements, but despite strong performances and a very moody atmosphere and Gothic flavor, its payoff was disappointingly mundane and not very satisfying for me.
Gwen lives with her mother and younger sister on a farm in the UK in the 1800s, and right away, we can see things are not well. The neighbors are dead, apparently from cholera. Dad is off fighting in a war. Mom’s mental health appears to be deteriorating. The owner of the nearby quarry wants to buy their land so they can expand the quarry. Quickly, it becomes apparent than someone or something wants to destroy their livelihood and drive them away.
There’s plenty of Gothic atmosphere, strange goings on, and mom’s spooky descent into madness, but it’s a very, very slow burn, with everything Gwen tries to do to show agency frustrated through design or chance, and any understanding frustrated by mom keeping secrets and otherwise holding back. The result is somewhat repetitive, culminating in a violent encounter that makes sense but wasn’t quite the payoff I was hoping to see. The result feels kind of like an odd period home invasion film where the invasion happens at the end not the beginning.
Still, despite these reservations, GWEN has a lot of strengths, notably its moody atmosphere and the performance of its young lead, Eleanor Worthington Cox. It wasn’t my cup of tea, overall, but I appreciated it for what it was trying to do. Check it out if you’re into moody, atmospheric, Gothic stories.