Written and directed by George Veck, an impressionable Canadian born probation officer takes to the UK’s rife gambling culture. Leaving him and his families dream of starting a counselling practice in the UK in tatters. Starring: Michael Lake, Bella Duve, George Veck, Sean O’Connor, Adam Phelan, Rosa Lina Duve and Maya Shakira Duve.
When films explore gambling addiction, it’s usually done in a way that’s either set among gangsters, people living the high life only for it to come crumbling down or used in an action-thriller type manner. It’s not often looked at in an everyday manner but that’s exactly what you get with Clogwyn. It’s extremely down to earth, both thematically and visually. However, it does attempt to bring through a touch of that thriller element but it doesn’t entirely gel with the story. That’s one of the key issues throughout the film, it’s not following a clear path, it’s bringing through aspects which feel more like tangents than a cohesive journey. There isn’t a key strength or central focus to bring everything together, especially when it’s taking place over half an hour, the slow pacing adds another layer of difficulty in letting the story flow.
Making a film primarily through a video chat, Zoom style format is always a tricky thing to pull off and unfortunately it can’t quite hit the right tone here. It definitely captures that mundanity which Carl (Michael Lake) is so desperately trying to escape but it then misses out on adding a sense of variety. Particularly in that when it does switch to a more traditional shot style, it clashes with the rest of the film. It also seems to be fairly relaxed with the editing, there’s a few unnecessary moments and extended scenes. Additionally, the use of music doesn’t always match the tone of the story which throws off its attempts to build an atmosphere even further.
The performances of the film are another element which struggles to establish the feel of the story. It’s calling out for an emotional and sincere foundation but the ensemble here can’t quite hit that note. There’s a woodenness to them, which can be a consequence of that video call style, as it doesn’t allow for a lot of movement and freedom. They’re all giving the characters with by the book portrayals, and there’s nothing overly individual or standout about them, which creates another issue when asking viewers to invest in the story.
Clogwyn is a good concept to explore the daily reality of gambling addiction but the execution misses the mark. The story feels unfocused and slow, while it does try to add a few unexpected elements in its ending, it struggles to build a concentrated path. Ultimately, its different aspects from the shooting style to the performances are limiting itself, it’s stuck within a box and needed to break out to create a more compelling, emotional story to match the subject.