Bridgend full movie review - Bridgend lacks focus and contrast
How did this film came to be? My guess is Rønde must have heard about these actual suicides and thought to himself: 'this sounds like it came straight from a film.' I get that. It's mysterious, it's horrific. So potentially good film material, right? Well, not always.
One of the biggest questions I have is: what is the film about?
When doing a film about these factual suicides it roughly comes down to two choices the filmmaker has:
A: try to come up with a believable answer to why these suicides are happening
B: don't try to explain, but simply make the viewers feel the distress of not knowing why these terrible things are happening.
On Bridgend, they kind of tried to do both. We get some leads as to why these kids are ending their lives (bad parenting, peer pressure, supposedly boring village culture) but all these explanations go a bit 'meh' as the film progresses.
So are we to assume that Rønde does not want to explain why these suicides are happening? That's fine. But what is the film about, if it's not to shed light on the 'why'? Is it about how much despair the suicides cause in the lives of the parents? We barely see the parents in the film, and when we do they just seem uninterested. Perhaps it is a mystery film about the police trying to solve the unsolvable, and that some things just can't be explained? I would have loved that, but in order to feel that someone in the film must at least try to explain it (and then fail).
Dave, the father of our protagonist Sara, is a detective. He would be in the perfect position to be 'the eyes of the audience.' He is trying to discover why these kids kill themselves, just as we are when we are watching the film. Dave's introduced, we learn he's a detective, so we think he's going to do some snooping around: trying to get a grip on the situation these kids, and his daughter, are in. But that doesn't happen. His profession ads absolutely nothing to the story. He's as passive as all the other adults are in town. Now I hear what you might be thinking: 'The film is about the passive community and failed police system that is unable to stop these suicides because they are just so darn...passive.' Valid point and would be interesting, but I don't believe that because i feel the focus is too much on these kids to be about the community. For now, let's agree to disagree.
OK, things are getting complicated, so for now i'll go with this one: Sara is our protagonist so let's assume the film is about her transformation. She comes to town all fresh and positive, and ends up hanging herself. Now that is a very interesting premise. It would be really interesting to see her transformation in a believable way. But yet, when she hanged herself in the final moments of the film, I could only think of the popular 'that escalated quickly' meme. Here we come to one of the points I disliked the most about the film: the characters.
All of the characters in this film lack one thing: likability. To be fair: Sara starts of likable enough. She feels the same thing as the viewer: she also thinks screaming the name of your dead friend while taking your clothes of in a forest is a bit weird so, we sympathize with her. After that however, the film went down hill for me. We have some 'bonding' scenes, which are supposed to make Sara grow close to the group. Yet they felt so, so awkward. All they do is drink, scream, and fight topless. For me, those things don't feel like bonding activities, so it's hard for me to believe that Sara wants to stick around (not to mention Sara almost gets raped twice by her friends). Nothing significant happens that would actually make Sara feel connected to the group. Every single one of these kids just got on my nerves, and then, in a flash, Sara is one of them. Now I know these are things that happen in real life. So am I not 'getting it' because I'm not a violent, depressed teenager? Well isn't the point of film that you can identify with people that are way different from you? If made properly, I could have felt like I could have been one of those kids. (I mean: I felt bad for Gollem, and he was a deformed hobbit.) But the kids just felt in no way relatable. They were flat characters. Their only emotion was being angry and rebellious.
That's the second biggest flaw of this film: the lack of contrast. Everything is dark: the kids, the parents, the images and the soundtrack. Dark things happening to dark people with dark music in the background. They tried to put 'happy' scenes in with Sara and Jamie, but even those felt kinda depressing.
This must be said: most of the actual cinematography was brilliantly done and the acting was superb at times. There just wasn't much to act other than 'I'm angry and depressed.' So maybet I don't like gloomy films? 'Drive' by Nicolas Wending Refn was gloomy as hell, and I would personally never stomp somebody's head in with my foot, but when Ryan Gosling did it, I felt horrified yet also sorry for him. Why? Because he also had positive attributes I could relate to. He was human, even when he did inhuman things. No matter how dark or gritty your film is, we need to at least be able to feel related to one person in the film, otherwise we are just going to be sitting there in the dark thinking: what are these crazy people doing now?