Patagonia is a slight and quietly elegant film from Welsh director Marc Evans (Snow Cake).
Patagonia is a slight
and quietly elegant film from Welsh director Marc Evans (Snow Cake).
Developed from an idea to explore the link between Wales and the 19th
Century Welsh colony in Argentina, two stories are interwoven, and although
they are not directly related they complement each other beautifully. First we meet the elderly Cerys and her
young neighbour Alejandro, Spanish speakers from Patagonia who travel to Wales
in search of the farm where Cerys’ mother was born. The other story is of photographer Rhys and his girlfriend
Gwen, who go adventuring in Argentina whilst wrestling with whether their
relationship is meant to be.
The opening could be
slightly confusing if you were not already aware of the film’s unusual
structure. In fact originally the
two stories were edited separately before being merged together, ensuring that
they are each as coherent as possible.
The plots unfold at a gentle and laid back pace, giving the actors time
to breathe and to get under the skins of their characters; characters made
convincing by subtle references to their backgrounds, and moments so touching
that you wouldn’t expect to find them so early on in the story.
If ever a film were a love
letter this is it, a love letter to Wales and to the little known pocket of
Welsh speakers in Argentina.
Sometimes photographed as if through a sepia haze, and even
incorporating an impressively artful dream sequence, Patagonia has a soft and
heartfelt feel to it, which is undeniably appealing and infectious.
Grammy Award winning
singer Duffy makes her acting debut
as a young student, who crosses paths with Alejandro as he explores Wales. Her first few scenes are slightly
worrying, as her lack of experience in front of a lens is particularly
evidenced when contrasted with Nahuel
Pérez Biscayart’s hilarious (“There’s a place here with six els in it!”)
and endearing performance as Alejandro.
However towards the end Duffy does pleasantly surprise, perhaps
suggesting a bright future for her should she decide to pursue further acting
Cerys knows where she
belongs and how to get there, but Gwen knows neither of those things. Terrified of disappointing her lover,
she allows herself to be swept along by a chaotic wind of temptation and
despair, forcing Rhys to question whether he really wants her at all. The alternating pains and joys of each
story contrast with one another, with neither overpowering the other, creating
an overall effect, which is very down to earth and relatable, and in the end
revealing a realistic yet hopeful portrait of the human condition.
Evans has crafted a true
cinematic gem about travelling and self-discovery, boldly sticking to the
non-multiplex friendly languages of Welsh and Spanish. The slow pace is saved from making the
film feel overlong by the tight script, and it will leave you with a lasting
stillness, pondering belonging and forgiveness, and with images so vivid that
you’ll feel like you’ve been to Patagonia.