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'Solomon and Gaenor'

New films off the beaten path

Thursday, October 12, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Although you probably don't remember (I did not), "Solomon and Gaenor" was a 1999 Oscar nominee. Submitted by the United Kingdom, it was a contender for Best Foreign Language film, losing to the bright and brash "All About My Mother."

'Solomon and Gaenor'

Rated R

3 1/2 stars


"Solomon and Gaenor" is a tragic love story about a couple who meet in 1911 Wales, a time when families are at the mercy of the coal mines, their religions and deeply ingrained prejudices. Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd, TV's Horatio Hornblower) is an Orthodox Jew whose parents run The People's Store, a combination pawn shop-purveyor of such goods as glass and fabric, the latter sold door to door.

Quiet, church-going Gaenor (Nia Roberts) lives with her family, including her father and brother who work in the mines. Gaenor does some sewing for a fellow villager and she and her mother tend to the domestic chores. When Solomon knocks on her door, the two feel an instant connection. Solomon, in an effort to conceal his ethnic background, calls himself Sam and later embroiders the lie with a story about his father being an engineer who is often away.

Their flirtation evolves into a sexual relationship. Their affair mimics the seasons, as they bask in the golden glow of sweet summer light and then face the gray chill of fall and winter -- and the practical, painful consequences of their doomed love.

"Solomon and Gaenor," written and directed by Paul Morrisson, is simply but beautifully photographed and realized. With characters occasionally lapsing into Yiddish and Welsh (subtitles are provided), we see how these families literally cannot communicate.

This is a harsh time governed by outside economic factors and ironclad rules that leave no room for a love outside the boundaries. Like Romeo and Juliet, "Solomon and Gaenor" is a tearful tale and lesson for the ages.

Films off the beaten path

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