aka THE FEAST
Welsh Language with English Subtitles
A politician and his family prepare to host a meal at their remote home in the Welsh countryside with the aid of a young woman from the local pub who’s been hired to help. What they don’t realise is that the meal may well be their last.
Welsh language horror drama GWLEDD, or as it’s known in English as THE FEAST, is the first feature length film from director Lee Haven Jones who’s previous credits include TV like Pobol y Cwm, Casualty, Doctor Who and The Bay, as well as documentary, Galesa. As the slow-burning story unravels, we see a privileged family exposed for who they truly are.
Following the opening scene, in which we see a workman using a drill digging into the ground, we’re introduced to the main characters of GWLEDD. As the camera swoops around their newbuild rural property, it’s evident that this isn’t your typical family unit. Despite their wealth and success, they are the most dysfunctional household you could ever meet. The father Gwyn (Julian Lewis-Jones) likes to boast and exaggerate both his achievements and his ailments; his wife Glenda (Nia Roberts) is obsessed by her modern build home and other purchases she’s made with their wealth, not realising how shallow her life has become; son Guto (Steffan Cennydd) is a rebellious rocker who’s more interested in smoking joints and injecting drugs; and then there’s vain Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) who enjoys stroking himself in the mirror when not pedalling on his exercise bike as he works to achieve a triathlon. All four have undesirable qualities in their own right. It’s clear that, despite the front they put on and the parents’ quest for perfection, they’re in fact a fractured family. Not to mention, the lack of love and care in the household is evident so, when we meet them through the first couple of scenes, it’s so easy to take a dislike to them. The appearance of waitress Cadi (Annes Elwy) on the property is where things begin to take an interesting turn…
As we see mother Glenda obsess about her evening meal, which she’s invited two guests to, Cadi’s assistance could be described as anything but. Alarm bells begin to ring early on as tell-tale signs give away that she’s not exactly who the family think she is. With Cadi hardly uttering a word, the family do a great job of filling in her story for us (and her!), as we discover she’s the help for night from the local Red Lion pub to prepare and serve the evening’s meal. But as she licks and rubs a stain from one of the glasses, scoffs hors d’oeuvre during meal preparation and pursues other unusual behaviours, such as trying on the host’s jewellery in her bedroom, Cadi is perhaps not all she seems. Throughout a series of strange behaviours, some more startling than others, you wonder how long it will be before the family members cotton on that something isn’t right.
Cadi’s odd behaviour escalates throughout the movie and though I can’t really say there’s anything to truly gross the viewer out, there’s some shocking scenes that may make you wince or squeal a little. The way in which Cadi’s storyline has been handled is cleverly done and although it’s abundantly clear early on what is going on, should you be well acquainted with horror movies, this doesn’t lessen the reveal or make it any less effective.
When the time for the evening meal arrives, we meet the guests that will be joining them. Euros (Rhodri Meilir), a friend of Gwyn, seems likeable upon first impression as he steps out of his car but quickly turns out to be a greedy person, not just in his quest to bargain deals with landowners to mine their acreage in the hunt for minerals, but from a food consuming point of view too! He gobbles the hors d’oeuvre like he’s never eaten before, even putting three fingers into his mouth to shove the food in quicker, and when we discover his line of work and relationship with the family, it’s blindingly obvious what sort of slimeball he is as he looks to extract what he can from mother earth and throw a few quid Gwyn’s way for the privilege.
The second guest to arrive is the final guest. Mair (Lisa Palfrey), a neighbouring farmowner and good friend of Glenda, arrives without her husband after he’s been caught up with something. When we meet Mair, it’s instantly a sigh of relief. Here’s the one person who’s down to Earth and normal in what appears to be a world full of egotistical individuals who’ll step on anyone’s toes to get what they want as they look down on those they deem below them despite being no better themselves. Mair’s friendly disposition is like a breath of fresh air and I laughed out loud at the comment she makes at the meditation room when Glenda eagerly shows her round her soulless property. As the group then sit down to dinner, Mair enquiries as to how Euros knows the family and its there she discovers how Gwyn and Glenda have gained their wealth. As an honest and hardworking farmer who loves her livelihood despite it being a struggle to make ends meet at times, she’s dismayed by the fact her childhood friend Glenda has decided to demolish her parents beloved farmhouse and give up their land in exchange for cold, hard cash. The contrast between the two friends is so stark as Glenda pursues the shallow life where everything is about value and appearance. Mair looks and feels like the odd one out in the group, and, in my mind, the only one with common sense, consideration and decency.
As the meal progresses, the true nature of all becomes evident.
GWLEDD is an unnerving folk horror who’s menace bubbles under the surface waiting to erupt at the right moment. It hits the horror beats effortlessly but in a way that’s unfamiliar despite it’s overarching story being one horror fans are accustomed to. Throughout its slow, momentous buildup, supported by the cast’s wonderfully restrained performances, its unyielding determination to not let rip until the opportune moment will leave you hungry to see the fallout. Its commentary on the corruption and greed of those looking to exploit the land to make a quick buck, no matter the ultimate cost, is also hard-hitting, effectively executed and culturally relevant. Without a doubt, this is a chilling, beautifully shot film that wouldn’t look amiss sitting alongside some of A24’s unusual horror output.
GWLEDD is the first Welsh language movie I’ve ever seen and I truly hope more films shot in the language make it to the big screen in the UK.
Swper diwethaf gwych!
Gwylio GWLEDD yn sinemas dydd Gwener 19th mis Awst 2022.
Watch THE FEAST in cinemas Friday 19th August 2022