Rising Welsh star Ioan Gruffud (Titanic, Horatio Hornblower) stars as Solomon to Nia Robert's Gaenor in director Paul Morrison's Oscar®-nominated tale of star-crossed lovers living in the wrong place (Wales) at the wrong t... more »ime (1911). Solomon is a Jewish packman who travels door to door selling fabric from his family's shop to the locals. It is on one such occasion that he meets Gaenor, the soft-spoken daughter of a miner. The attraction is mutual, but he conceals his true identity from her. A few visits (and one red dress) later, and Gaenor has fallen in love with the kindly "Sam" and has even introduced him to her family. But the more he resists her attempts to meet his family, the more she becomes convinced that hers is right and that his intentions are not honorable. Solomon is just as much in love, but he knows that his family would never accept Gaenor (any more than hers would accept him) if they knew the whole truth. In the end, it isn't his lies that put their lives in jeopardy, but the fear and intolerance the lies were meant to keep at bay. The message may be heavy handed, but Gruffud and Roberts assay their roles with conviction and skill--a portion of his dialogue is in Yiddish and hers in Welsh. While they are together, Solomon and Gaenor speak the same language. English? Yes, but more importantly, the language that knows no borders--love. --Kathleen C. Fennessy« less
Well, evidently there were some Jews in the Welsh valleys in 1911, which most of the British are not aware of. As a result, racial, cultural, and religious tensions grew between the two; this despite the fact that they are both living their lives from the same book, and evidently weren't taking some things in it seriously enough. This is the atmosphere we find ourselves in as a setting here. Then love blooms. And basically another Romeo and Juliet type story is born. And just as doomed. It's quite sad watching this poor Jewish lad trying to hide his identity and obfuscate his familial ties.
There's a scene outside a bar in this movie which is one of the most painful things I've ever witnessed. Unrelenting, unyielding, undying love can drive people to do some of the most irrational things. You'll know when you see it. Personally, I think if two people are so in love that they cannot breathe, live, or think without the other; and the existing societal constraints are casting long shadows over them, then disappear together! Blow that popsicle stand! Just bug out! To heck with everything else! That's my two cents.
Solomon & Gaenor
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set amidst mining strikes and anti-Jewish riots, Solomon & Gaenor paints a haunting picture of forbidden love against the harsh background of rural 1911 WalesNewcomer Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower) is Solomon, a Jewish pacman (peddler) and Nia Roberts is Gaenor, a young Welsh chapel-going woman. Racial tensions divide this bleak coal-mining community, but for Solomon and Gaenor it's love at first sight. They meet while Solomon is making weekly door-to-door rounds selling fabric; Solomon, conscious of being a "Jew-boy" introduces himself to Gaenor as 'Sam Livingstone'.Writer-director Paul Morrison unearthed a history of Jews in the Welsh valleys while researching a television documentary about Jews in Britain entitled A Sense of Belonging. Morrison says he wanted to tell the story of Jews in Wales, saying nobody even knew they were there; that most Britons are unaware of it. Gaenor herself is completely unaware of Solomon's true identity, but she isn't completely blind. "You're different," she tells him after their lovemaking in a hayloft. "You're even different down *there*." Solomon is careful to hide his tallit (prayer shawl) from Gaenor, and later, when she wants to meet his family, he makes lame excuses about them being out of town or unwell.The film presents the period of the Great Unrest before the First World War harshly, depicting everyday life amongst rows of slate-roofed houses as one long grind of drudgery. The only colour to be found among the bleak landscape of grey houses, mud roads and miners grimed with coal dust is the swatch of red cotton Solomon leaves with Gaenor, saying, "It'd look lovely on you." She nervously declines; there is no extra money and a red dress is no good for chapel. "You wouldn't have the use of it," her mother says decisively. Without even knowing her name, Solomon works through the night to make Gaenor a dress of the same fabric. "Look at me," she says, shy and pleased. "What'll people think?""They are not our people, is all. They are different," is the verdict of Solomon's grandfather. The film's real tragedy lies in the inability of both cultures to accept such a union, despite their common ground including the ability to recite the Old Testament verbatim. While the theme of the film is cultural coexistence, or lack thereof, much of Solomon & Gaenor is taken up with the story of young love.The lovers manage to meet secretly for a short while, but it isn't long before they're found out and Gaenor is denounced from the pulpit, charged with "fornicating with an outsider" by a jealous former suitor. Solomon's father tells him, "If you go with this girl, you are dead to us. We will say Kaddish over you," effectively disowning Solomon and grieving for him as if dead. Things could get worse, and they do: Gaenor is pregnant and anti-Jewish riots have spread from neighbouring towns to this one. Solomon keeps protesting "This isn't Russia," even as his family prepares to board up their shop and find a place to hide. There are no plot twists here: Morrison's story is a twentieth-century Romeo and Juliet, and just as moving in its tragic, inevitable conclusion. Excellent performances by Gruffudd and Roberts make this movie well worth watching.Solomon & Gaenor was nominated for Best Foreign Film in the 2000 Academy Awards."
Religious and Ethnic Bigotry Unfortunately Triumphs
David Thomson | Houston, TX USA | 09/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story of "Solomon & Gaenor" revolves around a lower middle class area of Wales in 1911. World War I is merely three years away. Jews are barely tolerated by the marginally educated indigenous Protestant majority. The traditional Jewish values of hard work and intense love of learning increases their odds of upward mobility. This inevitably increases the bitterness and envy of the less than friendly fellow townspeople. Solomon (Ioan Gruffund) goes house to house selling fabric to the women folk. Eventually the young Semitic male knocks on the door of a miner family. Their daughter Gaenor (Nia Roberts) answers, and the couple are soon attracted to each other. Solomon knows that his Jewishness will be held against him. He therefore lies to Gaenor and tells her that his name is Sam. The mild deception works, and soon the two are lovers. They begin to make plans for the future, but Gaenor senses something is wrong because "Sam" is reluctant to meet her family. Solomon is only too aware that neither the Jewish and Protestant cultures are inclined toward blessing their union. He eventually visits Gaenor's home, and is at least grudgingly accepted by her parents. Her brother is intimidated by "Sam's" ability to read and write. Furthermore, the blue color worker is not thrilled that his sister's beau does not earn his living in an allegedly more masculine manner. Alas, the couple's erotic romps in the hay ultimately culminates in Gaenor's pregnancy. This is where the situation gets out of control. Gaenor is with child without the benefit of marriage during a time when illegitimacy is severely condemned. Public humiliation is only part of the price to be paid for such non sanctioned physical coupling. The truth about Solomon's actual ethnic heritage is finally discovered. Also, the Jewish social leaders and Solomon's immediate family reject the very idea of his marrying a goy female. Solomon is even threatened with being ostracized from his roots. Everything further deteriorates and the story ends tragically.One wonders how much has changed in 90 years. Are mixed marriages more accepted today in Wales? Was there ever a chance that the lovers could have found a more receptive secular sub-culture that would have embraced them as a couple? I'm glad the film's creators frankly confronted the bigotry on both sides of the ethnic chasm. The courage not to write in a happy ending must also be applauded. This is indeed not "Fiddler on the Roof!" It almost certainly cost them some ticket sales. "Solomon & Gaenor" is instead a beautiful work of art. I strongly urge you to see this movie, and allow it to challenge your possible hidden prejudices."
Solomon & Gaenor
Z. Yang | Hockessin, DE USA | 03/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some people say that love is without reason. For Solomon, the young and gentle Jewish packman, and Gaenor, the tender and obedient daughter of a Welsh miner family, the fated attraction between them began with a glimpse, a few words, and a red dress, which he was up all night and made for her. Some people say that love is innocent. Concealing his identity, he loved her no matter what gap might be in between them. Discovering his true self, she loved him for who he is. Some people say that love is transcendent. Their relationship was inevitably secularized by their religions and origins. At the end love was fulfilled beyond everything but life itself couldn't. This is a beautiful and tragic love story. But more than just a love story with romance and sentimentality, this film is an authentic portrayal of the cruel realities of barriers and bias between two families, or two cultures, so to speak. Ioan Gruffaudd and Nia Robert are excellent as Solomon and Gaenor. As much as Solomon's light personality and charming manner appeals Gaenor, Gaenor's womanhood and demureness attracts Solomon. He is deeply attached to Gaenor, while at the same time, he struggles to choose between his family and his love. This time "Hornblower" reveals his softer side and delivers the complexity of Solomon vividly. Nia Robert, with her fine artistry, brings unique strength to the character, which can be felt just from the expression of her eyes and her face. The music is beautiful. The camera depicts the story with simplicity and yet striking effectiveness.While the story of Solomon and Gaenor is sad, the sadder lies in the fact that nobody but their own families, people who loved them, was to blame for the tragedy. Although one may find the time and location of the story - 1911 Wales - remote, the story itself is but familiar even in the modern times. If only there were more understanding and respect among people no matter what they believe in and where they come from!"
Tudor Holton | Melbourne, Vic, Australia | 08/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this film mainly because there is absolutely no sentimentality. It it very factual in its approach, and yet the angst is gut-wrenching, the scenery is incredible (the winter scenery was an amazingly good choice), and the warmth between Solomon and Gaenor is magic.It seemed obvious to me that the fear that each of the two families had had grown out of lack of communication and understanding about each others background.If I were looking for a moral to this tale, I'd say that it is that we need to learn to accept each other no matter what our background, and learn that love is something that transcends all and no laws or taboos should exclude those who are truly in love."
Tragic Love Story
P. Hall | usa | 07/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although a far cry from his ever so honorable Horatio Hornblower, Ioan Gruffudd does not disappoint in this film either. The actress playing Gaenor was superior also, I felt her heartbreak and sadness. The use of Welsh and Yiddish throughout this movie lent an authentic air that was much appreciated.I had originally seen this on vhs and have now purchased the dvd. It is quite wonderful, am v. pleased with the quality."