19 April 2024

Film Review – The Feast (Gwledd) (2021)

The setting is elegant and contemporary, the food is home cooked and looks delicious – this could be the perfect dinner party. And that’s exactly what the ambitious Glenda (Nia Roberts) has in mind. There’s a lot riding on it for both her and her MP husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones). More than they know.

Lee Haven Jones’ directorial debut, The Feast (Gwledd), takes us inside an immaculate, ultra-modern home, built in the wilds of the Welsh countryside. The couple are playing host to a business associate and a neighbouring farmer, with the aim of securing a deal to excavate the surrounding land. But it’s Cadi (an unsettling Annes Elwy), the near silent local girl bought in to serve and generally help out, who’s in the driving seat, controlling everything that happens over the course of the evening and serving up something much more than a mere main course.

While the dinner party from hell convention is a familiar one, Jones gives it a fresh flavour, with some unsettling twists built in. Aside from one or two words of English, it’s entirely in Welsh with subtitles – not a problem, if you subscribe to Bong-Joon Ho’s views on inch-high words – and the lyrical, nay musical, nature of the language is in delicious contrast to what transpires in front of our eyes. Right from the outset, there’s something off about Cadi: she’s a local, works in the village pub, but distant from everybody around her. As the clock ticks, it becomes evident that something happened in the past between her and Gwyn. Is she there for revenge? Partly …..

The tension escalates and the film’s targets multiply. Capitalism and the environment clash heads repeatedly, with the hosts the worst offenders. They’re Welsh, but they’re behaving like incomers with a second home, displaying an arrogance towards their heritage that infuriates everybody in the nearby village. Their new-build house sticks out like a sore thumb in the countryside, as if to underline their contempt for everything that surrounds them. In today’s political climate, the fact that Gwyn is also an MP just heightens our dislike of him and what he and his wife stand for. Folklore and legend sit alongside the contemporary issues, as a constant reminder to not just the dinner guests but the audience as well that the land is full of history and, no matter how deep it’s buried, bringing it to the surface is frighteningly easy.

Accept an invitation to this table and expect jangling tension, discomfort and some moments that will make you wince at the very least. You’ll need a strong stomach. The food on the table looks appetising enough but, like the family, is it really as good as it looks? Gordon Ramsay may have a few choice words to say about what goes on in the kitchen …..

★★★★


Horror | Cert: 18 | Picturehouse Entertainment | UK cinemas from 19 August 2022 | Dir. Lee Haven Jones | Annes Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies.


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