Reviewed by: Brian McClimans
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Nia Roberts | Director: Paul Morrisson | Producers: David Green, Andy Porter, Sheryl Crown | Screenwriter: Paul Morrisson | Released By: Sony Pictures Classics
I make it a habit of watching as many Oscar nominated films as I can. “Solomon and Gaenor” was nominated for Best Foreign Film for 1999 at the 2000 Academy Awards.
This is a love story about a young Jewish man and a young Christian woman. Set in 1911 Wales, the story itself is similar to the forbidden relationship found in “Romeo and Juliet.” There is deep racial tension between Jews and Christians at the time.
Solomon is a door-to-door salesman in a mining village. One day while making his rounds he meets up with Gaenor. Their relationship blossoms, but not without risks. At first, Solomon lies about himself. He never reveals to her that he’s a Jew; he tells her that his name is Sam. She thinks he’s just an Englishman. They meet secretly and eventually he meets her family. They also don’t know the truth.
During their courtship there are several scenes of passion. There is nudity and sexual relationships are shown. This easily could have been removed from the film, which would have boosted the moral rating.
Gaenor gets pregnant and eventually she learns the truth about the man she loves. Her family also finds out, and his family learns that she’s a Christian. They are forbidden from seeing each other… hence, the “Romeo and Juliet” nature of the film.
Besides the sex scenes and nudity, there is one graphic scene of violence, alcohol use, and some other lightly objectionable material.
There are several displays of religion. Many shots are filmed at Gaenor’s church and there are Jewish prayers. The film also has a display of strong Christian discipline in one scene against Gaenor and the risk of Jewish discipline against Solomon.
This film does have many avenues for discussion: legalism, racism, hatred, and life in general.
Despite the offensive material, a very beautiful and touching story. It’s well written and well acted.