Marc Evans wrote and directed the 2010 British-Argentine drama film Patagonia. People from Wales and Argentina who are linked to “Y Wladfa,” a Welsh village in Patagonia, Argentina, are at the center of the story. Several well-known Welsh actors, like Matthew Rhys, Nia Roberts, and the singer Duffy, are in the movie. It was shown for the first time at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 10, 2010, and in Cardiff, UK, on March 4, 2011. It was chosen as the British entry for the 84th Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category, but it didn’t make the final cut.
The film’s writer and director, Mark Evans, introduced the picture and explained his inspiration from his elementary school teacher’s stories about Patagonian Welsh-speaking cowboys. The fact that I was sharing those memories added to the intensity of the encounter.
It is a two-part road film available on yesmovies. Two stories, one in Patagonia and the other in Wales. Two stories of abandonment and yearning, love and sorrow, unexpected pregnancy and infertility, plains and valleys and snow-capped mountains, and inter-cultural and generational relationships
Screenwriter Lawrence Coriat and Welsh director Mark Evans develop a subtle narrative rhythm as they move between countries. Supporting characters and subplots appear and go, but Mali Evans’ editing allows for beautiful transitions. Most of the time, viewers should be able to tell which country they are in.
The cast, once again a mix of Argentinian and Welsh actors, is first-class, with excellent performances from Matthew Rhys, Nia Roberts, Nahuel Pérez, and Marta Lubos, as well as a wonderful cameo from Duffy. Enjoy the charm and intricacies of the Patagonian Welsh dialects.
A more interesting story, which could have stood on its own, is that of Gwen (Nia Roberts), a thirtysomething actress from Cardiff, who goes on a working holiday to Patagonia with her photographer boyfriend, Rhys (Matthew Gravelle). A place of golden lights, lofty mountain peaks, and 19th-century churches. These features will be like catnip to anyone with a camera, and cinematographer Robby Ryan (Andrea Arnold’s DP on “Red Road” and “Fish Tank”) takes full advantage of the stunning visuals, whether shooting in the barren Patagonian desert or amidst the impossibly green hills and clear waterways of Wales. It’s a sweet, gently funny film about the power of the past and the possibility of healing. Robbie Ryan (Fish Tank), who shot it, did a great job, and the actors didn’t seem to be trying too hard. This is a romance drama that explores what it means to be Welsh by introducing issues of identity, tradition, language, and culture.
The music is hauntingly beautiful, fitting for the stunning scenery of Patagonia and Wales, and I don’t think I was the only one who found myself crying and laughing as the video progressed.
The Welsh section of the road movie concludes aboard the 88 bus to Bangor through Caernarfon. It was like returning home. For me, it was a full circle. The Patagonia segment concludes with a stunning picture of Route 40.
Overall, the film moves at a steady but slow pace. While this is somewhat expected, Patagonia is more about the journey than the end. Unfortunately, the film drags on for about 20 minutes after the “end” of the Evans stories. At 130 minutes, the final act starts to feel long. The stories could have easily been tweaked a bit, which would have helped in the final production.
Patagonia isn’t perfect, but its flaws are usually minor. Thanks to the great acting, intriguing story, and beautiful visuals, this play is well worth the price of admission.