A recently widowed man looking for solace and purpose takes a post as a shepherd in the countryside. There he comes into contact with supernatural entities and has peculiar dreams.
Written and directed by Russell Owen for whom this is his first feature as a writer and his second feature as a director, Shepherd is a layered film that works on slower than slow pace, setting everything up without over explaining and eventually bringing it all home for the viewer with some horrific images and chilling images. The writing here is quite strong, but the story does get lost here and there. There are a few times in the film where things seem to be going nowhere or to be done just to fill some of the run time. Overall though, the story works and the directing brings the film together in a way that keeps the viewer interested.
In the lead, and almost only part for most of the run time, is Tom Hughes who does good work at showing how grief affects some and how dealing with isolation can make this grief and its consequences worse in this case. His performance is at times emotional, at times stoic, a mix of a little bit of everything which makes sense here given the subject and emotions at hand. His performance anchors the film throughout and helps bring it forward when the story seems to meander a bit too much at times. Playing his mother who is seen only a few times is Greta Scacchi who is fantastic here. The rest of the cast is not exactly numerous and they do work that is fitting for the film here.
The cinematography by Richard Stoddard is beautiful and sad here. The way the countryside and the water are shown is filled with melancholy and that little something that isn’t easy to identify but works so well here. There is something about the look of this film that helps the story in a lot of ways. The sadness felt is also seen, the grey of the world on screen matches that of the lead’s situation. The way this film shows how things are going, how they evolve, and how the lead deals with them is like a perfect rainy day when one feels a bit lost in the world over-positivity. The cinematography here also adds a lot to the creepier scenes and elements, giving them space to be and space to hide.
Shepherd is a slow-moving film with a lot of emotions running through it. There are horror and supernatural elements at play, but the main take away here is about grief and how each person deals with it. Yes, there is something off about the lead, but it takes the viewer deeper into his emotions and the film’s take on things. This is a film that requires attention and a mind ready to take in something the viewer may not have known was coming. The best way to watch this one is to go in as cold as possible to not taint any of the turns the story takes.