- Mary Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe
- Written by
- Mark Jenkin
- Directed by
- Mark Jenkin
- Run Time
- 1h 36min
- Release Date
- March 31st, 2023
Every morning when we wake up, for a brief moment it seems we can remember the dream we had the night before. Although dreams seem to fade away pretty quickly, nightmares more than often than not stay in our memory a lot longer. I can remember one still that I had for a week straight when I was like ten years old, that shit terrified me. I bring that up because a nightmare is exactly what Enys Men feels like while you watch it, you just hope it won’t stay with you like some of your own.
On an uninhabited island in the Celtic Sea grows a rare flower that brings a volunteer (Mary Woodvine) to observe it. Set in 1973, The Volunteer’s days are pretty mundane and consist of her looking at the flower and coming back to the run-down cottage she is staying in to make notes. There is no one else with her and her only contact with the outside world is through a radio, which she uses to get supplies delivered weekly. Although she is alone, she does have an old mine and remnants of vessels lost at sea to give her something to do when she is not watching the flowers. For the first part of the film, her days are quiet and uneventful, but things take a turn. Visions start to occur, suggesting maybe an earlier trauma the Volunteer might have experienced that result in a haunting brought on from the island’s own past. Needless to say her time on that island living the mundane life is over as both her and us as viewers try to figure out what is real and what is not.
Shot on 16mm, writer/director Mark Jenkin delivers a film that feels like it was unearthed by someone and you are watching the answer to what happened to them some time ago The film is grainy, but the colors are vivid and quiet stunning and what little dialogue spoken, since it is delivered in post- production, it can have an unnerving effect . Shot in an area where Jenkin grew up, he uses the areas myth and legends as well as local stories for source material, but that might be the films biggest flaw. The stories don’t have the weight they would if you knew them, instead what you see is a series of nonsensical scenes that just promote a visceral reaction. There are images that remind horror fans of previous classics, and although the buildup is great, unfortunately the film falls apart in the final 30 minutes.
Enys Men has plenty of things going for it and where it soars is in its visuals and the feeling like you are watching a nightmare come to life. With all the clues it presents in trying to tell you what it all means, it forgets to give you a satisfying conclusion, as the pieces just don’t add up. It is the lack of story that adds to the feeling that Enys Men is a lot longer than its ninety minute runtime and for some may even border on annoyance with its choices. With that said, I do think it is something to experience, because it’s possible that the surreal nature of it may affect others in a way that it was intended to.