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Bait: 'Uncanny and singular'

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Bait is a film about a familiar and very contemporary conflict: the locals of a tiny Cornish fishing village being squeezed out by an influx of out-of-town second-homers and Airbnb rentiers. But with this well-worn material director Mark Jenkin creates something uncanny and singular.

Martin Ward (Edward Rowe) is a fisherman without a boat. Each morning he and his nephew (Isaac Woodvine) lay out nets on the beach, hoping to ensnare fish washed in with the tide. His brother (Giles King) takes tourists out on coastal tours. Watching over them is their ancestral home, now owned by a pair of impossibly posh interlopers (Mary Woodvine and Simon Shepherd).

Shooting on black-and-white 16mm film, and with all sound added in post-production, Jenkin spins this set-up into a haunting, near-mythical tale of tension and collision. Martin's confrontations are presented in heightened, expressionist montages that recall the cinematic experiments of the '20s and '30s, while being some of the best filmmaking of right now.

Often films that dig up the styles and materials of the past do so out of ironic nostalgia. Quentin Tarantino, whose recent release Once Upon A Time in Hollywood was also shot on film, has made a superlative career out of just that.

But Bait's approach is radically different. Its old-school stylistic choices give it a kind of timelessness that is still able to stay rooted in the immediate emotions of its plot. Martin is an absurdist figure, a vessel of poorly-repressed mistrust, a guardian and a ghost. The scratchy film, post-sync sound and classical framing turn him into something out of legend, heightening the weirdness of the intrusion of MacBooks and Range Rovers.

Bait is an astonishing artefact: idiosyncratic, hand-crafted, troubling and easily one of the best films of the year.

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