Having visited the Welsh town of Bridgend recently for a Death Angel gig, it seemed as good a time as any to check out the 2015 drama film, titled “Bridgend”, from director and co-writer Jeppe Rønde, whose credits are almost exclusively for documentary work.
This is a movie that has caused some degree of controversy and consternation, particularly for the real-life residents of the town. That’s because between the end of 2007 and start of 2012 there were apparently 79 suicides in the Bridgend area – largely teenagers and the vast majority by hanging. (In fact, a 2014 documentary film on the subject That there were by then 99 victims). Whatever the true statistics it seems that there is no clear reason for this unusually large spate of suicides taking place. A fictional drama film inspired by these events, then , was always likely to upset someone.
The movie sees teenage girl Sara (Hannah Murray – “Game Of Thrones”, “Detroit”) and her policeman father Dave (Steven Waddington – “When The Lights Went Out”, “The Imitation Game”) relocating from Bristol to Bridgend, where Dave is tasked with trying to get to the bottom of a series of teen suicides. They arrive, along with Sara’s horse Snowy, just after the death of the latest victim.
With Dave busy at work Sara is left to her own devices a lot of the time and soon gets drawn into a group of local teens who spend their time drinking, smoking, swimming naked in a lake in the woods, dicing death in front of trains and partying.
Sara grows steadily more distant from her father, whilst getting closer to vicar’s son Jamie (Josh O’Connor – “The Durrells”, “The Riot Club”). All the while the group thins as the woodland hangings continue and Dave worries that Sara will get in too deep with the locals and become yet another victim…
I thought this was a really well made film. Filmed entirely on location in Bridgend, the cinematography is suitably bleak and claustrophobic when it needs to be and the whole thing gives a feeling of real-life horror as the teens self-destructive behaviour almost seems to be the only signs of actual life in the isolated community.
As this is not a documentary there are no real attempts to explain the causes for the tragic events which inspired it in the first place. Instead there are suggestions of the circumstances and influences that could perhaps bring such events to bear. Murray is excellent throughout, and is supported by strong performances all round.
The final portion of the film drifted somewhat into supernatural horror in a way, and could be interpreted in more than one way, I felt, but that only helps to make the movie the difficult but potent experience that it is…