A soulful, beautiful road movie to savour from journeyman director Marc Evans.
'A nation without a language is a nation without a heart,' goes the Welsh proverb. Never has an idiom more eloquently captured the collective ethos of a people, but its ripples extend much further than you might think.
In 1865 this ancient Brythonic tongue forked like the red dragon's when 163 Welsh settlers took a patch of green, green grass to Argentina, a world away from the soot-dampened prospects of the coalfields. The stone setters of the Y Wladfa colony believed in Patagonia and, as Marc Evans' exquisite, sprawling road movie suggests, their dreams and identity have not yielded to centuries of expired calendars and ocean currents.
The rolling ewe-dashed Valleys sharply juxtapose the arid Andean foothills, but Evans frames these contrasting landscapes in a way that subconsciously encourages you to detect similarities, not differences. Indeed, while Patagonia tells two distinctly separate stories, their themes intersect over common ground.
One narrative thread follows Cerys (Marta Lubos), a frail but feisty pensioner who tricks her young neighbour Alejandro (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) into chaperoning her on a pilgrimage to her ancestral homeland. Clutching a weathered tin of cherished heirlooms, Cerys determinedly sets about locating the family farm where she was born, disregarding the cataracts and diabetes that otherwise dictate her life.
The second traces a thirtysomething Welsh couple's journey west. Rhys (Matthew Gravelle) has been sent to photograph the chapels of Patagonia, and his girlfriend Gwen (Nia Roberts) has decided to tag along to cleanse and unwind in the aseptic Argentinean sun. Their relationship has hit the rocks since discovering they are unable to conceive, but when Gwen's head is turned by local alpha male Mateo (Matthew Rhys) their future together is brought into question.
Patagonia is spiced with moments of intense passion and melodrama – as well as humour in the chance romance that blossoms between Alejandro and a vivacious Cardiff girl (Duffy) – but the core ingredient is the metaphorical kinship that exists between our two female protagonists. Each place and character, though distinctively and intimately rendered, comes together in absolute alchemical harmony.
Journeyman director Marc Evans grounds himself in something personal.
A soulful, beautiful road movie to savour.
Here's hoping Patagonia is a sign of things to come from Evans.