Nothing softens hardship in this valley, and nothing is ever more unnecessary or heart wrenching than watching weak m-n brutalizing helpless people in the name of God.

SOLOMON AND GAENOR

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Proving yet again that small gems arrive without fanfare, Solomon and Gaenor takes us by surprise. On one level it is a touching love story about a Jewish boy and a Christian girl in a Welsh mining town. On another, it is one more tale of cruelty meted out by man in the name of God.

It is 1911 in a Welsh valley. The miners are on strike, and a spreading wave of poverty has engulfed everyone. The miners can buy little in the way of food or clothing; the merchants have no customers. It is into this atmosphere that a father who owns a fabric store sends his son to sell materials door to door: "Go out there, be a familiar face, earn their trust, and you will be there when things change." Armed with a bag of darning needles and threads, Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd) begins to knock on the doors of the row houses. One of these is opened by Gaenor (Nia Roberts), and the two fall in love instantly.

Solomon's family is rigid Orthodox Jewish, and Gaenor's is rigid Welsh Christian. Outsiders are not welcome in any guise. This is never about God, but about men. Men who have no power assume it in the name of the church, and it is always a terrible sight to see. Remember the brutality meted out by churchmen in Scotland in Breaking the Waves. All over this world, men of self-righteous religious certitude consume victims with their hatred.

Solomon and Gaenor meet secretly in a hayloft, sometimes to make love, sometimes just to be together. Solomon conceals his identity, calling himself Sam, to delay the inevitable clash between culture and love. Their initial joy at finding each other, so beautifully conveyed by each of these fine actors, gives way to the reality of family and church. When Gaenor becomes pregnant, cruelty, like poverty, engulfs the lovers. There are no heroes in this valley.

Solomon is beaten and driven away by Gaenor's brother Crad (Mark Lewis Jones) and an ugly gaggle of his drinking buddies. The lovers are separated, each cast out from family and church. Gaenor's father: "Who will have her now!" And Solomon's: "If you go with this girl you will be dead to us." If love doomed by religion is a familiar story, this one, as made by writer/director Paul Morrisson, is poetry.

The rain-splattered grays and browns of the inhospitable landscape are punctured for a moment by the bright red dress Solomon sews for Gaenor. The boy slips into her Christian church loft just to watch, with love, the back of her head. Interior stone walls have the look of abstract paintings. Gaenor, on discovering Sam's heritage, says, "Talk to me in your language." They quote from the same Bible.

Nothing softens hardship in this valley, and nothing is ever more unnecessary or heart wrenching than watching weak m-n brutalizing helpless people in the name of God.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
Rating : R
Running time : 1h42m


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