Slow-paced films, when done right, can offer a rewarding journey exploring intricately written characters along with an engrossing narrative. Though, when a film is seeking to capture these slow-paced arcs, its path can be lost along the way when focusing too much on irrelevant moments that stem away from the main plot. And in their debut feature film, director Lee Haven Jones and writer, Roger Williams, collaborate and construct a somewhat pretentious film lacking much substance. It’s obvious the two desired to create something original and psychologically gruesome while also referencing real-world problems, but the overall execution is considerably absent throughout the 93-minute film. The Feast is an all Welsh film revolving around, you guessed it, a feast. An affluent family hosts a dinner party, aiming to hopefully make a deal with a local farmer to obtain their land for their drilling business. The hosts hire a waitress of sorts, someone to assist them with their dinner party needs, but as mysterious as the waitress arrived, her motives start to unfold as the feast commences.
The film starts off ambiguously, featuring low saturation shots coupled with gray skies to set the tone of this dark film. Low-angle shots introduce our strange characters and it takes nearly 10 minutes before a word is spoken, the film instead establishes the setting and the small cast we’ll be accompanying. It’s quite a strong start but as the plot advances, the film quickly loses its footing. Its beautiful cinematography along with the setting’s natural artistry manages to distract viewers from the obvious problems for a short time, it’s then most will see how incredibly hollow the narrative is. With no real substance throughout the film, scenes are filled with irrelevant information spoken by underdeveloped characters while every now and then featuring a spooky occurrence to remind you that this is a horror film. I think Williams genuinely wanted to build a story containing profound, and multi-layered perspectives but the direction of this film by Jones progresses bafflingly slow. And although slow-paced films can be extremely slow for some time, a payoff should be expected, but The Feast grants little to no fulfilling climax and instead forces a copious amount of pretentious writing to fill to the brim of this lackluster film. \
A majority of the film certainly suffers from poor execution, but that’s not to say there are zero elements thriving throughout, they’re just concealed behind the major flaws. Bjørn Ståle Bratberg captures the disturbing mood impressively, using medium shots while also shooting long takes to convey the uncomfortable environment our characters are currently residing in. If not for Bratberg, it would be a film void of personality, but his talents integrate competently with the gratifying performances given by the small cast. It’s the natural performances that help drive the believability of the plot forward and with ease, with Annes Elwy playing the enigmatic stranger. Elwy, who we have seen in the 2017 mini-series Little Women as Beth March, plays a beautiful yet mystifying character extremely well. Her performance alone is quite entrancing and mixing with the ensemble, it makes for an interesting study of the characters. However, after about an hour, these characters will exhaust you as the dialogue undergoes crude repetition and remains stagnant for a ridiculous amount of time. These characters are given a shortage of moments, failing to guide the audience along their arcs to form the complete development of characters.
And since the film contains almost no substance, the only aspects to look forward to come from the performances and the cinematography. The Feast has much to say but uses its time unwisely, telling an underdeveloped story involving characters we simply do not care for. Somehow with such a small cast, this story burdens the performances and exceptional cinematography in a frustrating manner. The disorienting script and direction make for a weird watch, using imagery to paint more of a picture than the actual screenplay itself. With this film focusing entirely on a feast, it reminds me of Karyn Kusama’s 2015 thriller, The Invitation which also concentrated on a dinner party but in a more engrossing execution. The Invitation uses its time well by incorporating elements needed to drive its point across while also giving room to the performances to bloom naturally.
The overall film is more of a spectacle than a finished or even captivating story, leaning on the performances and uses of imagery alone. The end goal is clear, but the journey to the climax is lost on many occasions since Jones and Williams tend to focus on less important aspects that pertain or connect very little to the story. It feels like a broad statement in a way, touching on point of the film slightly but never thoroughly explaining it for audiences. The setup was almost more spellbinding than the rest of the film, and once the setup ends, there is little material to look forward to other than the technical aspects and performances. But cinematography and performances can only carry for so long because at the end of the day, The Feast remains a film that was in dire need of proofreading and adjustment, springing for a simplistic story but losing its footing along the way.