Jeppe Rønde’s “Bridgend” – 2015 Fantasia Film Review

In South Wales – more specifically, in the County Borough of Bridgend – the residents disproportionately keep taking their own lives.  This is fact, not fiction: at the peak of this trend, 79 people between 2007 and 2012, many of them teenagers, committed suicide.

The engaging feature film based on this disturbing trend, “Bridgend,” begins around the end of the second year of that peak period, which by this time has seen 25 deaths, all but one by hanging.  After the passing of her mother, Sara (Hannah Murray) moves to Bridgend with her father, a rural policeman.  Meanwhile, in a chat room filled with sweet pictorial memorials to lost friends, the conversation looks very much like this:

“R.I.P. Kevin”
“He will be missed”
“Love you, brother!”
“He’s better off now”
“Hey, there’s a new girl in town”

The local boys are quick to notice the attractive young Sara, and the girlfriend of the pack’s Alpha male invites her to tag along with them one night as they go into the woods to drink, get naked, and howl the name of the latest suicide victim toward the heavens.  Though she pulls back at first, bit by bit, even while the body count climbs, Sara finds herself drawn into the troubled world of her young friends, a world seemingly bent upon pulling each of them into the darkness.

While the film provides no sure solution to the continuing mystery of the alarming pattern of death, it does hint that it may lie in the teens’ own insular reactions to the deaths.  Each death pulls the kids closer and closer together, locked into a protective circle that shuns outsiders.  And once you are inside the circle, it is perceived as traitorous – and disloyal to the lost – to want out.  It’s all for one and nobody, absolutely nobody, for him or herself.  Call it a cloister of teen suffering, perhaps.

Or you can kill yourself.  Only then can you once again become an individual, your existence memorialized on a chat room wall, and have your name gloriously howled towards the heavens.

“Bridgend” received its Canadian premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 15.  The festival runs through August 4.  For further information go to