Solomon & Gaenor may not be directed squarely at the American Pie crowd, but nonetheless it revolves around the similar theme of young love (and young lust).
Solomon sells fabric and women's clothing door to door. Gaenor is the prim and very Christian daughter of a mining family in a nearby village. Inexplicably, Gaenor is unable to discern from Solomon's mass of curly black hair and occupation in the textile business that he is Jewish, and they soon develop a lusty relationship, replete with hay-rolling booty calls in a local barn.
This, in case you're wondering, is Wales in 1911.
Solomon hides his Jewish heritage from Gaenor, as he would never make his way into her arms otherwise due to the prejudices of the era. As you might expect, the deception leads to all kinds of trouble for the star-crossed lovers. Civil unrest and a miners' strike make things all the worse.
Despite its gloomy promise, Solomon & Gaenor manages to hold your attention throughout its running time, thanks to strong performances from its two quirky leads, Ioan Gruffudd (Wilde) and Nia Roberts. The love affair is mostly believable, falling somewhere between The Piano and The Way We Were in degree of heat. Borrowing heavily from Romeo and Juliet, the film works with good source material while it puts a unique spin on things.
It certainly could have gone a lot worse, another morose Feast of July to send you screaming out of the theater. But while Solomon & Gaenor is hardly uplifting, it remains a very good example of the period romance.
In English, Welsh, and Yiddish (with subtitles for the latter two).
Gaenor goes gaga.