Welsh film The Feast opens with an employee manning an oil drill stumbling away from a dig site, blood covering their face.
It’s visually disconnected from the cold, sterile environment where the rest of the film takes place, but this seemingly incongruous opening hangs heavy over a dinner party from hell.
The Feast follows an exceedingly rich family – an MP, his wife and two adult sons – as they prepare to host a soiree at their secluded country home. Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones), the MP, is introduced in a field, gun in hand, waiting for game. His chipper, but harried wife Glenda (Nia Roberts) buzzes around the new home, badgering her family with her desperate desire for perfection. Disinterested Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) is busy training for a marathon when he’s not feeling himself up in his biking gear and shaving his balls. Finally, recovering drug addict Guto (Stefan Cennydd) is lamenting his exile from London’s bright lights and ample opportunities to score.
Into this dysfunctional nuclear family strolls Cadi (Annes Elwy), the cater waiter for the evening and the film’s audience surrogate. Cadi is a quiet, unassuming observer who is prone to taking frequent breaks from her work to wander the palatial modern house nestled in the gorgeous countryside. The juxtaposition between the natural beauty of the land and the ultra modern house makes for some striking visual imagery, captured by cinematographer Bjørn Ståle Bratberg in both establishing shots and the way characters cross liminal boundaries between the two environments, such as when Guto smokes outside and speaks to his father through the open window.
In time it becomes evident that the house, and indeed the dinner party, are intricately tied to The Feast’s themes about greed, prosperity and humanity’s relationship with Mother Nature. Indeed, Gwyn and Glenda have invited a grotesque developer friend Euros (Rhodri Meillir), as well as their down to earth farmer neighbour Mair (Lisa Palfrey), for a very specific reason.
Screenwriter Roger Williams and director Lee Haven Jones, who previously collaborated on queer short “Want It”, have crafted an allegory about the price of progress and profit. The further The Feast progresses, the more obvious the messaging and the mystery becomes, particularly once the motivations of the characters are confirmed. This is a morality tale distilled through the lens of an environmental fairytale (hence why each family member’s name begins with the letter G).
Thankfully confirmation of the film’s message coincides with the rapid deterioration of the dinner party when blood and viscera take center stage. Many of the resulting set-pieces are disarmingly gruesome, including a number of Grand Guignol body horror moments that Haven Jones holds just long enough to cause extreme discomfort before editor Kevin Jones cuts away.
One almost wishes that the film had embraced more of its gonzo last act a little earlier as the ~80 minute runtime drags a little, though there’s enough mystery involving Cadi’s behaviour around each family member in the film’s first half to satisfy curiousity.
While The Feast is a relatively straight forward film that wears its messaging on its sleeve, it is beautiful to behold, both in regard to the cinematography, as well as the gorgeous house porn and the lush Welsh environment. With assured direction, steady pacing and a mix of mystery in the first half and hallucinatory bloodshed in the last act, it’s a fairytale worth checking out.