At times, Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s debut The Wanting Mare feels like a dream come to life, present but not fully fleshed out. He has created a world that needs to be expanded on in the future. Despite its lack of cohesion, this is still an impressive bit of filmmaking.
In the world of Anmaere, north of the city of Whithren, wild horses run through the moorlands and up the coast. These horses are the city’s most valuable export and, as a result, are hunted, trapped, sold, and shipped across the sea once a year. For those in Whithren, this trade creates exciting possibilities: the chance to escape their constantly sweltering city to head across the sea. Meanwhile, in a small house just north of the city, a line of women passes a single dream through the generations. They inherit it from mother to daughter, a memory of a time where magic and myth were alive in the world.
Less a film and more a visual poem, The Wanting Mare hazily glides through its story in a visually impressive manner. The fact that writer/editor/actor/director Nicholas Ashe Bateman was able to achieve what he has here with his microbudget is astounding. His long endeavour is a treat for the eyes as you watch a city and world that is entirely made from visual effects. The landscapes distant looks of the city are all computers made, which truly surprises you with how good it is.
There is a lot to appreciate and even love in Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s film, the boldness of the story and how Bateman decides to show it to us. We do not really get full scenes per se, but important moments that we catch in this journey of wanton escapism from the world the characters know. The most impressive aspect to the entire piece of The Wanting Mare, though, is the world-building that has gone on. While it is understandable that the narrative was as intended by Bateman, the audience is continually kept at a distance. It feels almost a shame to glance at certain moments as swiftly as we do in these 88 minutes. The glorious world-building that has gone on deserves to be explored more fully and with hope; if the film does well, it will be.
Despite that, the film comes across as something that should be a grand, all-encompassing epic that has been truncated to this under 90-minute runtime, featuring only the most interesting aspects. As if it was a trilogy of films edited together to make one piece. The lack of full cohesion hurts the film as if it was so focused on getting the world right that it forgot the characters’ story. Even if you enjoy expressionistic cinema, you want something to latch onto, and that doesn’t happen enough throughout The Wanting Mare. But, for better or worse, Bateman chooses this way to tell his story, and for some audiences, this bold strategy will pay off.
It creates that overwhelming level of intrigue within you, that you are itching for more, and in truth, that is the worst thing about the film. There is so much lore for it not to reveal more of itself is deflating. As such, it is barely a critique, more a wish, that the veil of mystery was lifted so we could explore more and get further behind the story. Hopefully, if the film does well, we will get our wishes fulfilled as it would be such a terrible waste not to explore.
The Wanting Mare is something different for audiences to digest. Depending on your ability not to be presented with a clear structure and not to be told what exactly is going on will distinguish how much you enjoy it. There is so much to love about Bateman’s film but equally enough to get frustrated with if you are not used to this type of film. However, if you are able to stick with it, you may just get something out of it.
The Wanting Mare is available to rent or own on digital HD from Bulldog Film Distribution on 7 February 2022.
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