Patagonia (15) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Marc Evans, Argentina/UK, 2009,119 mins in Welsh and Spanish with subtitles
Cast: Matthew Rhys, Marta Lubos, Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Nia Roberts, Rhys Parry Jones, Duffy
Although based in historical fact this road movie (or more accurately two road movies rolled into one) is a flight of fancy comparing and contrasting the lives of two women; one at the end of her journey and the other just starting out.
In the late 1800s the barren desert of Patagonia was colonised by a small band of Welsh hill farmers fleeing the poverty of their homeland. Flash forward to the present and Gwen (Roberts) is leaving her native Wales with her landscape photographer boyfriend Rhys (Parry Jones) on a photographic assignment to record the many desert chapels the colonisers have left behind. But Gwen carries with her a secret and as the alien light and landscape of Patagonia disorientate her she finds herself drawing away from Rhys into the arms of their Welsh-speaking Patagonian guide Mateo (Rhys).
At the same time the elderly Argentine Cerys (Lubos) is travelling to Wales in the company of her young nephew Alejandro (Biscayart) on a quest to find the farmhouse where her mother was born. Armed only with a photograph and a name — Nant Briallu — their task seems impossible, but Cerys is nothing if not determined and much to the bewilderment of Alejandro, they press on by public transport, helped and hindered in equal parts by the locals.
Director Evans certainly has an eye for landscape and the lush harshness of the Welsh hills is very nicely contrasted with the extraordinary light and decaying buildings of Patagonia. However, of the two stories it is that of Cerys and Alejandro that impresses the most, totally eclipsing Gwen’s journey. Cerys and Alejandro’s travels are full of joy and quirky sweetness, a random collection of meetings and fleeting friendships (one of which is with Duffy, acquitting herself honourably in the acting stakes) that speak of the wisdom of old age, the folly of youth and the lessons learned in between. In the end it is this strand of the film that comes to mean the most and certainly reverberates in the mind most forcefully at its conclusion.
Review by Dee Pilgrim