Movie review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Matthew Rhys, Nia Roberts, Matthew Gravelle, Duffy, Marta Lubos, Nahaul Perez Biscayart
Director: Marc Evans
The director of SNOW CAKE brings us a cultural film in Spanish and Welsh inspired by the Welsh emigration to Patagonia in 1865, the modern day legacies of which are explored here by two separate narratives. PATAGONIA benefits from solid performances and the stunning South American landscape, but somehow fails to deliver the charm its premise might suggest.
Bookish Argentinean Alejandro (Nahaul Perez Biscayart) is selected as chaperone by his aging neighbour Cerys (Marta Lubos), when she needs to travel to Buenos Aires for a cataracts operation. But once they arrive, the mischievous old granny reveals that she’s actually saved up for two plane tickets to Wales, determined to visit her true ancestral homeland. The introverted teen gradually opens up to embracing new experiences, his eyes and ears opened by the old woman’s spirit and wisdom, and his trousers opened by a Welsh student, played by Duffy.
Meanwhile, Welsh couple Gwen and Rhys (Nia Roberts and Matthew Gravelle) have been together for seven years and have been trying in vain to conceive. Thinking a break will help their relationship, Gwen suggests that she tag along on Rhys’ photography assignment to Patagonia. But on arrival Gwen seems to get on better with their handsome Welsh Patagonian guide Mateo (Matthew Rhys).
The film looks great, with some stunning photography of the Patagonian landscape (the Welsh caravan park in which Alejandro bumps into Duffy is not quite so glamorous) but perhaps it is the use of two separate narratives that prevents the audience from becoming more absorbed. Two stories are jostling to be told here where maybe only one is needed.
Out of the two narratives, Cerys’ journey to find the Welsh farm that her mother left behind is the strongest. Director Marc Evans handles the scenes in Spanish between Alejandro and Cerys confidently and skilfully, and the climax of the old woman’s pilgrimage provides the film’s most touching and beautiful scene.
Duffy makes an earnest and gentle debut in her first film role, and although her involvement has been plugged rather heavily as a selling point of the film, in reality her on screen role is fairly minimal (although she does also contribute to the soundtrack).
An interesting film that you may get more out of if you have a particular interest in the cultures explored here.