A hugely familiar variation on the Romeo and Juliet theme, against a hugely unfamiliar backdrop: the cultural clash between local miners and Eastern-European Jewish immigrants in 1911 Wales. Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd, of A&E's Horatio
Hornblower movies) is the eldest son of a devout, Orthodox Jewish family who run a small dry goods and pawn shop. Gaenor (Nia Roberts), a Christian girl from a poor but proud mining family, lives in a neighboring town. They meet when Solomon's father asks him to help sell fabric door-to-door,
and fall heedlessly in love. Knowing that the devout Gaenor would never intentionally date a man who isn't Christian, Solomon lies about his background, claiming that he's a middle-class Englishman named Sam Livingstone and setting the stage for his eventual, crushing betrayal of the girl he
loves. It's a foregone conclusion that the relationship will end badly, which may be why this gloomy romance seems longer than its 102-minute running time. The performances are uniformly excellent, from Solomon's loving but inflexibly tradition-bound parents (Maureen Lipman, David Horovitch), to
Gaenor's brutal brother Crad (Mark Lewis Jones); the young lovers are exquisitely rendered by Gruffudd and Roberts. The unfamiliar milieu is another asset who knew that Eastern European Jews settled in significant numbers in rural Wales? and the mix of languages (English, Welsh and
Yiddish) delicately underscores the endlessly complicated ties that bind and divide families and individuals.
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