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Solomon and Gaenor

A Jewish Romeo and a Welsh Juliet face religious intolerance in working-class Wales, circa 1911. Break out the Kleenex for an old-fashioned weepie.


It's love at first sight when Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd), the son of an Orthodox Jewish tailor, meets Gaenor (Nia Roberts), a strong-willed young woman from a humble family of Welsh miners. Posing as a Christian and adopting a false name, Solomon successfully woos his lady. But his deception can't last forever, and when the truth comes out, the hate-filled atmosphere in their hardscrabble town assures that there will be big trouble.


Gruffudd (TV's "Horatio Hornblower") immediately puts the drama on a sure footing with his natural leading-man presence and easy emotional accessibility. Roberts ("The Theory of Flight") is equally compelling as Gaenor, whose conservative exterior hides the fiercely independent mind of a Jane Austen heroine. Most importantly, the two leads throw sparks every time they're onscreen together. The strong supporting cast includes the compelling Maureen Lipman ("Educating Rita") as Solomon's mother, who isn't above a bit of cruelty to protect her own.


Writer-director Paul Morrison, a documentarian and practicing psychotherapist (!), invests his debut feature with passionate feeling and wonderful period detail. Clear motivations, torturous conflicts and no small amount of suspense (thanks to the foreboding presence of Gaenor's hulking anti-Semite brother) give the piece engaging narrative urgency. Things lose steam a bit during the last act's over-the-top melodrama, but it's a hard heart, indeed, that won't be rooting desperately for the star-crossed lovers to prevail.

Bottom line

Hopeless romantics (you know who you are) will fall for this thoughtful heartbreaker.


Starring Ioan Gruffud, Nia Roberts, David Horovitch, William Thomas and Maureen Lipman.

Written and directed by Paul Morrison. Produced by Sheryl Crown. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.