The Feast, directed by Lee Haven Jones, is a genre film that rewards the patient viewer, as the first half of the film is the tiny nudging of little puzzle pieces that gradually builds to a bigger picture. We are invited into the house of Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) and his wife Glenda (Nia Roberts) in the Welsh mountains. The couple and their two sons mostly live in London now, but retreat to this space when they have business interests in the area.
The pair are making preparations for a dinner party – Glenda’s preparing the food, while Gwyn hunts for their table – and it becomes apparent quite quickly that this feast isn’t with the intent of social gaiety. Cadi (Annes Elwy), a young waitress, has been hired for the evening, a replacement for the usual help that Glenda employs. She arrives late, hair wet, and just completely out of sorts. Glenda sets her to work, but there’s just something so unsettling about this girl. She barely utters a word, and despite being recommended for the job, can’t seem to do anything properly. Elwy does well in the role, emoting effortlessly without much dialogue, managing to be equal doses ethereal and terrifying.
She’s not the only weird one in the house. One of the sons Gweirydd (Sion Davies) has a pronounced fascination with his own body, in particular his male genitalia, and the moment he lays eyes on Cadi, he immediately begins devouring her with his eyes. Gweirydd is training for a triathlon, and speaks about a special diet that he has to adhere to that has been customised for him. The other son Gluto (Steffan Cennydd) is a drug addict, always looking for his next fix, while Glenda is a guzzling alcoholic. And Gwyn? He’s recovering from a stomach ulcer.
It’s clear that the film is using appetites and eating to reflect the voracious nature of every single individual at this dinner party. They are each focused on their own appetites, rapaciously consuming, without any concern for how their actions impact others or themselves. If this isn’t obvious enough, each of their names begin with G, to call them out for the greedy gluttons they are.
With the film mostly made up of static shots, this gives the family and their home a sense of cold detachment. None of the rooms appear lived in, and though this isn’t the family’s permanent home, we observe a similar remote quality in their relationships with each other. The film lulls you in with its disquieting placidity before bombarding you with a quick barrage of disturbing imagery, like stones thrown into a still pond. This juxtaposition contributes to the tension and unease that surrounds this dinner party, as we are left wondering what it all means.
The last act of the film is truly insane. Everything starts to make sense, and you’ll find yourself turning over earlier parts of the film in your mind, feeling oh so satisfied at how each piece of the puzzle fits together so seamlessly. In comparison to other genre films, which enjoy rolling about in ambiguity, The Feast is so utterly straightforward.
This quality may either be appreciated, as everything the film shows us is purposeful, or it could feel a tad simplistic, since we are guided at every turn instead of making the connections ourselves. I do feel there were certain moments where the film could have held back a little and allowed the viewer to discern things on our own, but I absolutely enjoyed the resolute storytelling. Sometimes genre films can be so wishy-washy in what they’re trying to put across, so it’s refreshing to see a firmly steered effort.
While The Invitation is still my favourite film about a dinner party descending into chaos, The Feast is nonetheless a stellar effort we should wholeheartedly consume. Be warned, though: it’s not for the faint of heart.
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The Feast is a blazing meal of fire and brimstone: there is no mercy for the wicked, who are on the receiving end of a zealous fury that can't be stopped.
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