Enys Men (2022) poster

Enys Men (2022)


UK. 2022.


Director/Screenplay/Photography/Music – Mark Jenkin, Story Idea – Adrian Bailey & Mark Jenkin, Producer – Denzil Monk, Prosthetic Effects – Millennium FX (Designer – Neill Gorton), Production Design – Joe Gray & Mae Voogd. Production Company – Bosena Ltd.


Mary Woodvine (The Volunteer), Edward Rowe (The Boatman), Flo Crowe (The Girl), John Woodvine (The Preacher)


April 1973. A lone volunteer lives on a small island off the coast of Cornwall where she takes measurements and writes daily reports about a unique flower that grows there. The isolation causes her sanity to fray as the ghosts of memory and the island’s past appear to her.

Enys Man was the second film for British director Mark Jenkin. Jenkin had previously made shorts and assorted music videos, doing triple duty on these as director, photographer and editor. His previous full-length film was the non-genre Bait (2019) about a small fishing community in the Cornwall region (the coastal area in the southwest of England) undergoing social change. Both films also star Jenkin’s real-life partner Mary Woodvine, the daughter of celebrated British actor John Woodvine, who can be seen on screen here as the preacher in the church.

As in Bait, Mark Jenkin has a unique visual style where the film was shot silent and the soundtrack added afterwards, creating an oddly disjointed feel. There are only about a dozen or so lines of dialogue spoke throughout the entire film. Much of the film lies in repetition – Mary Woodvine is the only character on screen for most of the runtime. Jenkin follows Mary’s daily ritual – of checking the flower, walking back to the cottage and stopping to drop a stone down into the old mining pit, booting up the generator, making notes in her journal (which always note there is no change) and checking the radio. Much of the film consists of watching her repeating variations on these. Part of the reason for this is that the film was shot in three weeks during the Covid lockdown in March-April 2021 using a minimal crew (where Mark Jenkin performs most of the tasks behind the camera).

These scenes following Mary’s daily ritual are interspersed with ones where Mary sees other people – a girl standing on the roof, women in 19th Century clothing on the cliffside, people at the door of the cottage, and children in the mines (although you keep wondering how a mining operation would work on a small island). These are abrupt – static shots where the characters often stand there and there is no accompanying sound. You are not sure whether these are characters from memory or ghosts from the island’s past or both. Perhaps the nearest film you could make comparison to might be Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968) with Max Von Sydow as an artist on a remote island tormented by sleeplessness and unsure whether the visions he has are hallucinations or not.

Mary Woodvine with the flower in Enys Men (2022)
Mary Woodvine with the flower

There is a constant enigma in that Mark Jenkin explains almost nothing that happens. Are we seeing ghosts from the island past or from Mary’s memory? The Girl is certainly the younger Mary but we have no idea who the other figures – the children in the mine, the women referred to as bal maidens – are meant to be. There is a mysterious menhir on the island, carved in ways that almost seem as though it has features, which appears and disappears and then comes right up to the door of the cottage, leading you to wonder if this is a Folk Horror film. The lichen from the plants starts growing on a wound in the woman’s stomach, leading you to wonder if the film is not taking place as some kind of drug hallucination.

What is the significance of the piece of driftwood with the partial word ‘-oven” written it, or the yellow fisherman’s coat that Mary digs out of the surf and is later seen worn by the boatman (Edward Rowe) who visits the island. What is her relationship with the boatman – in that she is seen kissing him at one point is that indicative of a relationship, which their interaction never seems to indicate in any other way, or just a fantasy in her head? What do we make of the scene when his body wearing the yellow coat appears to be dragged from the water having drowned and we see Mary as one of the coastguard emergency services workers?

It is cryptic enigma that makes the film all the more fascinating as you seek to decipher its layers of meaning. For that matter, you wonder what the title ‘enys men’ means as it is never explained throughout, although a little google-fu on the subject informs me that it is from the Cornish language and translates as ‘stone island’.

Trailer here

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