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William McGregor
Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Maxine Peake, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Writing Credits:
William McGregor

A teen girl tries to help her family survive stark circumstances during the Industrial Revolution era.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $28.97
Release Date: 10/8/2019

• “An Interview with Maxine Peake”
• “An Interview with Eleanor Worthington-Cox”
• 2 Photo Galleries


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Gwen [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 8, 2019)

A Gothic period drama with horror overtones, 2019’s Gwen takes us to Wales circa the Industrial Revolution era. Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) lives with her mother Elen (Maxine Peake) and younger sister Mari (Jodie Innes) on a small farm.

Apparently away at war, Gwen’s dad is no longer on the scene, so she performs a lot of day-to-day household duties. These become more of a struggle in the face of her demanding mother’s declining health.

In addition, Gwen senses a strange presence in her community, one that turns into a potential threat. These lead to a variety of challenges for our young protagonist.

If you like atmospheric movies, Gwen might work for you. The film comes with moody visuals to spare, as it consistently generates a dark, depressing view of its environment.

If you like plot-driven movies, Gwen will leave you entirely cold. The film avoids almost any form of conventional narrative exposition, so we enter the characters’ world with little to ground us.

Not much adds to our understanding from there. My synopsis indicates that Gwen’s dad is away at war, but that’s simply an inference, as the movie never tells us that – or much else.

While I do like it when a film leaves some matter vague, Gwen takes this too far. It seems so smitten with its own ashy sense of atmosphere that it barely attempts to go anywhere beyond grimy visuals.

Not that Gwen truly lacks a story, as it does attempt a plot in its own sluggish manner – sort of. It’s clear there’s some spooky menace involved, and that domain develops in its own draggy manner.

At its heart, Gwen seems to aspire to a form of “coming of age” tale, as it bears many of those markers. We get the adolescent girl who rebels against her parent and finds herself at a crossroads of sorts.

Gwen doesn’t pursue this angle in an especially involving way, and it doesn’t manage to develop much else in the meantime. The plot remains flaccid and the characters don’t get room to do much more than mope.

All of this leads us down a dull path to nowhere, as the film never gets to the “boil” part of “slow boil”. While it comes with some impressive photography, Gwen lacks enough purpose.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Gwen appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a good representation of the source.

Overall sharpness came across fine. A couple of shots looked a bit soft, but those didn’t create a notable concern. Instead, the flick delivered positive clarity and accuracy.

No jaggies or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. I also saw no print flaws.

To reflect the film’s setting and tone, Gwen came with a nearly monochromatic palette. It opted for a drab teal orientation the majority of the time, with some orange from fire along for the ride as well.

These choices worked fine, and blacks seemed strong. Shadows also appeared smooth and concise. No one will use this as a showcase image, but it replicated the filmmakers’ intentions.

Given the movie’s subdued nature, I expected a low-key DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, and that was what I got. The audio concentrated on mild ambience much of the time.

Effects occasionally cropped up around the spectrum, and the film’s spare score also utilized the various channels, but this was usually a restrained soundscape.

Audio quality appeared positive. Music was full and rich, while effects seemed accurate and clear.

The accents on display might impact intelligibility of dialogue, but the lines seemed natural. This became a suitable soundtrack for the story on display.

A few extras appear, and the first brings an Interview with Maxine Peake. In this 12-minute, 14-second piece, the actor discusses story/characters as well as her performance and her colleagues. She provides a decent overview but not a ton of insights.

Next comes an Interview with Eleanor Worthington-Cox. This provides an eight-minute, 39-second segment in which the actor talks about the same topics as Peake. Though she offers her own spin, she only brings minor notes.

The disc ends with a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (13 images) and a Photo Gallery (7). The former shows shots from the set, while the latter displays movie elements. Both seem forgettable.

Atmospheric to a fault, Gwen lacks the story and character depth to succeed. It looks interesting but bores too much of the time. The Blu-ray brings very good picture, acceptable audio and minor bonus materials. Gwen ends up as a sluggish affair.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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