Solomon and Gaenor

The last Academy Award nominated foreign film from last year's Oscars finally arrives in theaters. Although it did not win, Solomon and Gaenor exhibits many of the qualities the Academy likes when picking nominees. This is a tale about forbidden love, this time between a Jew and Christian in 1911 Wales.

Solomon (Ioan Gruffud, Titanic, Wilde) is a young Jewish man who sells cotton. His family lives on the other side of the mountain with the other Jews. They provide many services to the townsfolk, but the people still shun them. Solomon meets Gaenor (Nia Roberts, Theory of Flight), the daughter of a pious family. She is initially shy, but there is an immediate attraction. Solomon, knowing the doomed circumstances of their relationship, claims to be English, and calls himself Sam Livingstone. Their romance progresses, with Solomon always restraining himself. He refuses to allow Gaenor to meet his parents. Gaenor resents this, and they being to argue.

The story is nothing extraordinary. Writer/director Paul Morrison simply transports a basic love story to a new place. Everything that occurs is preordained, and to do otherwise would ruin the power of the story. Solomon and Gaenor is memorable because Morrison treats everything so delicately. Solomon and Gaenor are two kids trying to deal with issues beyond their understanding. They simply want to love each other, but no one will let them. Solomon's parents would disown him, while Gaenor's parents would probably do the same. Gaenor's parents are not well off, and the threat of a looming strike has the entire town worried and even more resentful towards the Jews.

In the midst of this, Morrison films everything the lush Welsh countryside. Solomon and Gaenor find hope within each other, doing their best to ignore everything else around them. Gruffud and Roberts give tender performances. They are each conflicted characters, and everything shows in their performances. They deliver their lines hesitantly, and their entire demeanor changes when the other shows up. Few movies ever come out of Wales, so it may be that the Welsh put all their effort in making a couple good movies instead of many bad ones like in Hollywood.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 40 minutes, English, Yiddish, and Welsh with English subtitles, Rated R for sexuality and a scene of violence.

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