Solomon And Gaenor Review

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Wales at the turn of the century (or any other time for that matter) is not the most obvious place for contemporary cinema to tread but then again, Morrison's debut is not an obvious love story. Or at least not until the final reel. Solomon (Gruffudd), the son of Orthodox Jewish shopkeepers, meets Gaenor (Roberts) daughter of bible-bashing mining stock, while trading in her valley. They fall in love, yet he decides to keep his religious identity secret, a deception which sets the wheels of fate turning with all the tragic inevitability of a Thomas Hardy novel.

In some ways, this is a throwback to the type of production on which Film Four originally built its reputation and is even faintly reminiscent of a past offering, Michael Radford's Another Time Another Place - if only in the austerely handsome vistas and the thematic treatment of communal persecution. Morrison, commendably, is keen to show that prejudice is a two way street - that the Welsh and Jewish communities we see here are as absolutist, insular and racist as each other - and it is exploration of mounting ethnic tensions in the face of a bitter miners strike which lends the romance political resonance and personal texture.

Regrettably, the director's otherwise unsentimental approach to the lovers' tender affair succumbs to pathos as a dying Solomon makes a last snow-blanketed odyssey to his paramour, leaving the audience to ponder a denouement which seems more suited to some cliched Hollywood epic. Lipman, as Solomon's mother, also has a staginess which goes against the naturalistic grain of the action. However, there's certainly no denying the talents of both Morrison and the exemplary Roberts.