On the isolated island of Enys Men, just off the Cornish coast, Mary Woodvine’s nameless volunteer studies the rare flowers that grow there. Each day she ritualistically hikes across the barren landscape to make her observations before returning home for a cup of tea and to read her book. As the days unfold however, time and reality begin to warp and unravel as she undertakes a metaphysical journey into both her past and her future. 

It needs to be said that Enys Men is not for everyone. Fans of director Mark Jenkin’s previous effort Bait will undoubtedly know what to expect. Others however may find it to be a confusing and muddling piece whose unique form of psychological and metaphysical horror (if it can even be called that) will be a massive turn off. 

That’s not to say that the film is bad, in fact delving deeply there is much to like. The 4:3 aspect ratio and use of  ’70s retrograde make the film feel like a relic of a bygone era. This extends into the haunting appearances of Bal Maidens and coal-stained miners, whose inclusion ensures there’s a distinct slice of Cornish history and culture interwoven throughout.  

Likewise, Jenkin’s utilisation of the repetition – both in the radio calls that go unanswered, and mundane repetition of the volunteer’s life – blends well with the uncertain flow of time. Coupled with his employment of altered angles and elements of haptic body horror, Enys Men creates a deeply unsettling experience. 

Woodvine’s performance too borders on the hypnotic in its simplicity. She barely registers the bizarre occurrences around her, so when she is spurred to human reaction or offers a sliver of emotion, it’s all the more jarring. In fact the entire primary cast also deliver detached performances that only add to the unsettling atmosphere, as though they are caught in a loop from which they are incapable of escaping. 

Of course, these elements are well and good if you’re into them. As previously noted, many will be put off by what can be understandably perceived as an inaccessible film. Of course, it’s not the duty of the filmmaker to appeal to everyone, but it’s clear this a project made with cinephiles in mind.

In cinemas nationwide now