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Solomon and Gaenor

(Welsh, Yiddish and English dialogue)

(Welsh, Yiddish and English dialogue)

A Romeo & Juliet tale set in the Welsh Valleys in 1911, “Solomon and Gaenor” is a small but affecting picture. The more comfortable home for this well-written and well-acted drama about a Welsh girl and a Jewish lad is probably the tube, though it could find small-scale business in the right territories.

Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd) meets Gaenor (Nia Roberts) when selling clothing fabric door-to-door. He can hardly speak Welsh, having been brought up in an English-speaking town, and hides his Jewish identity, posing as Sam Livingstone. She’s an outwardly demure, inwardly resolute daughter of a traditional working-class family, with a dour father (William Thomas) and beer-swilling, Jew-hating brother (Mark Lewis Jones).

Tension is rising in the community as a pit strike looms, and only after she becomes pregnant by Solomon does Gaenor learn his true ethnic identity. The couple decide to flee together, but become separated during anti-Jewish riots.

With most of the actors limning racial stereotypes (including Maureen Lipman in one of her patented oy-vey performances), the movie is largely kept going by its two central characters, who are involvingly etched by Gruffudd and Roberts sans cuteness and without losing the fairy-tale simplicity that first-time director-writer Paul Morrison clearly intends. Ilona Sekacz’s filigree, raindrop-like score is nicely attuned to the picture, which realistically evokes its pre-WWI period on limitedmeans.

Pic is filmed with simplicity and precision, accentuating a technically elaborate final shot.

Solomon and Gaenor

(DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A FilmFour Distributors release (in U.K.) of an S4C/FilmFour presentation, with the Arts Council of England, of an APT Film & Television production, in ass ociation with September Films. (International sales: FilmFour Intl., London.) Produced by Sheryl Crown. Executive producers, David Green, Andy Porter. Directed, written by Paul Morrison. Camera (Deluxe color), Nina Kellgren; editor, Kant Pan; music, Ilona Sekacz; production designer, Hayden Pearce; art director, Fraser Pearce; costume designer, Maxine Brown; sound (Dolby), Richard Dyer; Welsh-language assistant director, Bethan Eames; casting, Joan McCann. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 18, 1999. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Ioan Gruffudd, Nia Roberts, Sue Jones Davies, William Thomas, Mark Lewis Jones, Maureen Lipman, David Horovitch.

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