I was honoured to be given the opportunity to cover Yr Ymadawiad (English Title: The Passing) for the horror site that I love writing for.
Not only is it a Welsh language genre film which are pretty much rare; it was filmed near Tregaron a few miles down the road from my hometown of Aberystwyth.
Yr Ymadawiad is the first feature length offering from Y Gwyll/Hinterland creators Gareth Bryn (Director) and Ed Talfan (Writer). The detective, crime television drama is an integral part of recent Aberystwyth culture with the series largely filmed within the town and the surrounding areas. The series is noted for impressively being shot in both English and Welsh with the Welsh version airing on S4C and the BBC being home to the English language episodes.
The first series can currently be enjoyed on Netflix. The tone in Y Gwyll is melancholy and brooding with plenty of camera focus on the landscape, Yr Ymadawiad replicates the same mood to compliment it’s slow burning plot that hinders on a supernatural element.
Stanley (Mark Lewis Jones), a mysterious gentleman living alone in an isolated farmhouse in the depths of the countryside has his peaceful existence disrupted when he comes across a young couple who have been involved in a car accident in a nearby river. Rushing to their aid, he rescues Sara (Annes Elwy) and Iwan (Dyfan Dwyfor) and brings them into his home. As the three of them become embroiled in each other’s lives hidden truths threaten to spill but does Stanley conceal an even darker secret that’s contributed to his years of lonliness?
Yr Ymadawiad is very much about character dynamics. The performances are electrifying as throughout it’s never quite clear if the intentions between any of them are genuine. Dwyfor plays Iwan as a man on edge, untrusting of Stanley there’s always a sense of something brewing under the surface with him. Sara has a devious element about her, it’s unclear to decipher whether she cares for Stanley or whether she is attempting to hurt Iwan.
There’s a tense atmosphere and some uncomfortable moments. Mark Lewis Jones (best known as Rob Morgan on Sky One’s Stella) really shows his diversity as an actor. Stanley is a complex and layered character. It’s difficult not to be compelled by his backstory and what’s led him to a life of isolation. He isn’t given a great deal of dialogue but provides an emotive performance making it difficult not to empathise with him; it’s powerful viewing.
Yr Ymadawiad is a very visual film and isn’t heavy on the exposition. The opening moments that introduce Stanley doesn’t include any dialogue whatsoever capturing his loneliness. There’s an unease at play as the bleak Welsh countryside is revealed through the cinematography. On the most part Yr Ymadawiad is a darkly lit film adding to the eeriness.
The sound design is incredible transitioning between quiet scenes to the jarring sound of the rain; water being a vital theme throughout. Stanley continually plays an old fashioned Welsh song on his record player that has an important link to his past. Crackly in its sound the song has a haunting presence to it. The choral music used during the opening credits and on several occasions as the film goes on is intense and unsettling sounding almost hellish.
Keeping to a consistent slow burning pace the storyline heads towards a devastating twist and a worthwhile payoff. Yr Ymadawiad isn’t explicitly a horror film and more of a dark drama with a chilling atmosphere that qualifies it as genre. It’s a traditional Welsh language film with a particular grimness surrounding it. Especially compelling right until the gripping finale, beautifully haunting and atmospheric.
Gareth Bryn and Ed Talfan are putting mid-Wales on the map with their mysterious and intriguing dramas; it will be interesting to see what they have to offer next.