Whilst the Industrial Revolution may have profoundly changed Britain’s position in the world, that doesn’t mean to say that everyone benefited. Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and other major industrial centres flourished but it was largely the factory owners who got rich. This wealth didn’t necessarily stretch outside of major cities. Copper, steel and iron ore provided the heartbeat of the Welsh economy. As mines struggled to cope with the demand, nefarious bosses employed underhand tactics to expand. This is the setting for William McGregor’s debut feature Gwen.
Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) is a teenage girl living in Snowdonia with her mother (Maxine Peake) and younger sister (Jodie Innes). With her father away at war, they struggle to eke out a living from their farm. Gwen must take over when her mother contracts a mysterious illness; struggling to stay afloat as dark omens cast a pall over their lives. Meanwhile, a ruthless mining company owner (Mark Lewis Jones) has his eye on their land.
Gwen is a dark and dangerous mood piece which allows the imposing Welsh hills to play host to a deeply fermenting evil. Adam Etherington’s beautiful cinematography sets the tone for this stark and soiled drama. However, it’s Worthington-Cox who steal the show with a meticulously observed performance; transforming Gwen from a child to adulthood. Gwen is an assured and exciting first outing which will hopefully launch the careers of both director and lead actor.
Gwen is in cinemas from 19 July.