Bait Review – Tradition meets modernity on the Cornish Coast

3 mins read

Mark Jenkin’s Cornish fishing tale ‘Bait’ is a masterclass in cinematic art and social commentary. Providing us with an hypnotic and salty soap opera. While mixing this with a unique, captivating and utterly beautiful piece of cinema. The grain of its 16mm black and white footage interfacing with modern Cornwall. As tradition and change combine with explosive results.

Martin Ward (Edward Rowe) plays a fisherman who scrapes together a living within a rapidly changing village. The community he once served now a playground for summer tourists and holiday makers. While the fishermen who fed the community of his childhood slowly vanish through industrial decline.

These social and industrial changes have led Martin’s brother (Giles King) to use the family fishing boat to ferry tourists around the coast. While many of the friends Martin once had have replaced riding the waves, with driving taxi’s to make ends-meet.

Meanwhile Martin’s childhood cottage has been sold to a family from London. Becoming a mere holiday venue, while its interior is ‘modernised’ to suit city tastes. The tension between Martin and the new home owners, Sandra and Tim Leigh (Mary Woodvine and Simon Shepherd) and their children (Georgia Ellery and Jowan Jacobs). Not only a clash between tradition, community and home, but also, a reflection of economic change.

While a glimmer of hope pervades Martin’s world as his teenage nephew Neil (Isaac Woodvine) shows interest in embracing the traditions and history his uncle holds dear. While in turn socially benefiting from the influx of teenage holiday makers who keep the villages economy afloat.

Bait (BFI 2019)

As events spiral over the course of one summer. Martin’s belief in tradition and community, conflicts with the Leighs families holiday. His nephew both embracing the traditions of the family’s fishing heritage and the Leigh’s daughter; as change and tradition finally meeting head on.

Mark Jenkins cleverly uses hand processed and aged 16mm film with a soundscape created solely in post-production. Ensuring the film has the aesthetic of vintage archive footage, clashing immediately and hauntingly with its modern location; the film itself becoming a character in the exploration of tradition vs modernity.

Equally there are moments where no sound is needed. The photographic quality of Jenkins work both portraying and dissecting the challenges of coastal communities in equal measure.

Bait seduces its audience with a style unlike anything else in modern cinema. A beautiful photographic study that washes over you with its salty and stark dissection of coastal life.

Director: Mark Jenkin

Cast: Edward RoweMary WoodvineSimon Shepherd  |

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