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Laramie Movie Scope: Enys Men

Experimental Cornish film off the rails

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 9, 2023 – Enys Men (Cornish for “Stone Island”) is an experimental psychological horror film made during the Covid pandemic by a small cast and crew on a small island where a mining operation once existed. This movie is written and directed by Mark Jenkin (“Bait” 2019).

Cornwall, at the southern tip of England (where “Land's End” is located) is known for its historically important tin mines. This movie is set on a small Cornish island, where a lone woman is serving as a wildlife volunteer monitoring a rare flowering plant species.

The middle-aged woman, played by Mary Woodvine takes daily temperature readings and other observations of a small patch of wild flowers during spring. Her daily routine is simple. She takes the readings and walks around the island, stopping every day at a deep vertical shaft. She habitually drops a rock down the shaft daily, which hits water far below.

Days pass with little change, until a a fruticose lichen begins to grow on the flowers. The woman starts to think the lichen is growing on her, too. She also imagines being visited by the ghosts of miners, children, women in religious garb, and an old time minister (played by John Woodvine, father of Mary Woodvine). She also imagines a young woman (played by Flo Crowe) staying around the house where she lives.

In this movie, it is hard to tell the difference between real people and imaginary people at times, but one seemingly real person is a boatman (played by Edward Rowe) who brings supplies to the island, including food, and gasoline for the generator that supplies power to the house where she stays.

The woman's only contact with the outside world is a shortwave radio. She also has another radio for listening to music and newscasts. Both radios require electricity from the generator. When the generator runs out of gas, the woman imagines hearing messages from the shortwave radio, including distress calls from a boat that sank many years ago. She also imagines seeing crewmen from that boat.

When the boatman visits with supplies, the woman asks him to stay, but he can't. She later imagines the boatman's body in the ocean, but who knows if that is real or not? She also imagines a standing stone on the island that moves around, sometimes coming closer to the house, and sometimes disappearing.

As the woman's insanity gets worse, she ends up hurting herself. In the end, it seems the woman herself may not be real at all. Maybe she and all the other characters are like ghosts haunting a deserted island.

This is an extremely slow moving movie that seems to have been done on a shoestring budget. The film looks grainy and there are some very dark, poorly lit scenes. This film reminded me of the Danish films of the Dogme 95 movement, in that it is very retro and basic, with no frills.

It was a real chore for me to sit through this movie because of its slow pace and the lack of a coherent narrative. If you are a fan of horror films, you might like this, but I am not, and I didn't. It rates a D.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]