Patagonia (Film Review)

Not many people realise the close link that exists between Wales and Argentina. In the mid-19th century many Welsh citizens were invited by the Argentine government to come live in Patagonia. For Argentina this meant that their land was now inhabited and so less vulnerable to capture, and for the Welsh it meant the acquisition of large amounts of land where they could start a new life.

Patagonia, directed by Marc Evans, takes this background as it’s starting point. Essentially it’s the story of two simultaneous road movies; the first of Rhys, a Welsh photographer setting off an assignment to Patagonia with his girlfriend Gwen in tow; and the second of Cerys, a Patagonian native on a mission to see the land which her mother had left behind. Her neighbour’s son Alejandro joins her, believing that he is simply accompanying her to Buenos Aires, but ending up on a flight to Wales.

It’s this tale of Cerys and Alejandro that contains the film’s heart. Cerys is the wise, knowing elder who has seen it all and fears nothing, Alejandro the naive youngster fearful of visiting a new country and the new experiences it will bring. For Alejandro then this is a coming-of-age story and for Cerys, who is beautifully played by Marta Lubos, it is a resolution. A circle that was started by her mother leaving Wales for Argentina is about to be completed.

In the other story, Gwen has decided to join Rhys on his trip to Patagonia in order to inject a bit of much-needed excitment into their relationship. With Rhys intent on working while in Argentina this does not go to plan, and with Mateo their horse-riding guide getting closer to Gwen, their relationship may in fact be under its greatest strain.

While the characters in the Welsh storyline are far more likeable, this is because they are at the extremes of life and so bring that classic “opposites attract” warmth to the film, whereas with Gwen and Rhys things are a lot more complicated. Their relationship and emotions are much more complex, reaching a point where the only way things can improve is for someone to get hurt. These two very different lives serve to complement each other very well. While a whole story of Gwen and Rhys could become slightly over-bearing I also feel that if it was just Cerys and Alejandro you could be looking at something approaching a caricature.

In both stories the scenery is stunning, and the difference between the green, rolling hills of Northern Wales and dusty, flat Patagonian landscapes have never felt so disparate. Add this to the superb acting, writing and direction, and you have an excellent film.

by Russ Slater

Patagonia is out now on DVD. You can buy the DVD from Amazon among other retailers.

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