Pick of the Week: What “Gwen” Reminds Us About Gender and Class

Picks of the Week is Women and Hollywood‘s newest resource. W&H writers are often asked for recommendations, so each week they’ll spotlight the women-driven and women-made projects—movies, series, VOD releases and more—that they’re most excited about. (Sign up for the Women and Hollywood newsletter at womenandhollywood.com to get each week’s picks delivered to your inbox!)

The trailer for Gwen features a mother at the end of her rope, a fair amount of blood and a young woman screaming. In other words, it looks like a fairly cut-and-dried period horror tale. However, the final result is a lot more interesting—and, honestly, much more frightening—than that.

The titular character (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) is struggling to keep her head above water during what we now call the industrial revolution. Along with the universal experiences of teen girldom—crushes, family squabbles, feelings of loneliness‚she’s taking care of her ill mother and putting on a brave face for her little sister. Meanwhile, her father is off at war, the farm is failing and local businessmen have their sights set on her family’s land.

(Scene from Gwen)

“Steal a sheep, and they’ll take your hand,” mother Elen (Maxine Peake) tells her daughters. “Steal a mountain, and they’ll make you a lord.” And that’s where the true horror of Gwen comes into play.

Elen’s mysterious illness, which she suspects might be demonic, is scary enough—but the real threat to the family is a world that is becoming more obsessed with money and less concerned with actual people and their needs. In fact, her mother’s sickness just makes Gwen and her family more vulnerable to the mining company that’s been systematically buying their neighbors’ property.

So, all in all, Gwen is a horror flick—and its monster is capitalism. (Rachel Montpelier)

Gwen is currently playing in the UK. It arrives in U.S. theaters and on VOD August 16.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates and agitates for gender diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the global film industry. The site, founded in 2007 by Melissa Silverstein, sets the standard, defines the conversation, fuels coverage and reinforces messages throughout the specialized and mainstream media to call for gender parity on a daily basis. Follow W&H at @WomenaHollywood and Melissa @MelSil.