Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019)


What’s This All About

Martin (Edward Rowe) is a fisherman who can’t make ends meet, but how do fish without a boat and with several annoying city dwellers on your way?

Take the Bait

Sometimes it’s all about style.

British director Mark Jenkin turns what could have been just another kitchen-sink drama into an oddity of a film mainly inspired by the early talkies. Bait’s distinctive style—filmed on 16mm and in black and white, where all the sounds and dialogues were added in post-production—will delight Guy Maddin fans, but might mislead viewers into thinking the movie is as weird as Keyhole or Cowards Bend the Knee. There is no room for Maddin’s usual sexual deviations in here, although there is room for a lot of repressed rage.

Bait takes place in a coastal Cornish town ruined by recession where a broken family of fishermen can’t come to terms with tragedy. Martin is surrounded by pesky tourists and is resentful that some posh Londoners took over his childhood home and turned it into a picturesque B&B. “All ropes and chains,” he exclaims when he sees how they modernised it, “Looks like a sex dungeon!” Not only that, Martin is also bitter that his brother Steven (Giles King) is using their family boat for sightseeing tours instead of going fishing and giving him a hand. But despite the movie’s clear stance against gentrification, Martin can’t make peace with anyone due more to his stubbornness and aggressive temperament rather than being affected by the economic crisis.

Even though the plot is closer to Ken Loach’s filmography than, let’s say, Anna Biller’s, it wouldn’t be fair to reduce Jenkin’s technique into a simple gimmick as the director’s archaic methods, full of scratches, mannered performances and out-of-sync dubbing, work perfectly for the movie’s criticism of this insatiable changing world. 


Spoiler Area

The editing and sound design heighten the movie’s palpable anger, yet they do somehow promise a violent climax that’s never quite fulfilling, as it plays it safe and is highly predictable.

The Moment

In Spain, a farmer had to get rid of his chickens because some tourists complained about the noise the animals were making all the time. Really? What’s the point of making rural tourism if you can’t stand the rural environment?

A similar, brilliant thing happens in Bait, where some upper-class guests in a fishing town complain about the noise of fishing boats. Just get out of here already.

The Quote

There’s one of them over there who’s so posh, I thought he was speaking German.

Recommended for

Film buffs who see the charm in homemade movies


Good companion pieces

  • As previously stated, Anna Billler’s The Love Witch or anything by Guy Maddin.

  • Dziga Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera (1929) or Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922)

MVP (cast)

Edward Rowe’s so angry all the time, you’d believe he’s literally going to burst a blood vessel.

MVP (crew)

Mark Jenkin pretty much does everything in here, but Bait’s sound design is what differentiates it from the other movies and makes it such peculiar specimen.

For Your Consideration

Best Movie - Best Director: Mark Jenkin - Best Actor: Edward Rowe - Best Supporting Actress: Mary Woodvine - Best Cinematography: Mark Jenkin - Best Editing: Mark Jenkin - Best Music: Mark Jenkin - Most Multi-Tasking Crew Member: Mark Jenkin - Best ensemble cast