Solomon & Gaenor

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...read more

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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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