out of Five
Running time: 118
Beautifully shot and nicely written, this is an emotionally engaging double road movie with strong performances and striking location work, though it's also a little too long and drags a little in the middle section.
What's it all about?
Directed by Marc Evans (My Little Eye), Patagonia focuses on two sets of characters making parallel trips across the Atlantic, echoing the thousands who emigrated from Wales to Argentina in the late 19th century. The film opens with octogenarian Argentine Cerys (Marta Lubos) coercing her neighbour's teenage son Alejandro (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) into accompanying her to Wales; this is intercut with thirty-something Welsh actress Gwen (Nia Roberts), who joins her photographer partner Rhys (Matthew Gravelle) on a work-related trip to Patagonia.
Once in Wales, Cerys becomes desperate to find the farm that her pregnant, unmarried mother was forced to leave in the 1920s; meanwhile, Alejandro falls for local girl Sissy (Duffy), whom he first encounters in a Cardiff nightclub, moments before she passes out and is taken to hospital. At the same time, in Argentina, Gwen finds herself growing apart from Rhys and increasingly drawn towards their attractive, kind-hearted Patagonian guide Mateo (Matthew Rhys).
The performances are excellent: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart makes an appealing young lead and his onscreen relationships with both Lubos and Duffy are extremely sweet. Similarly, there's palpable chemistry between Nia Roberts and Matthew Rhys and the scenes of them growing steadily, subtly closer are superbly handled.
The film is beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Fish Tank), while Evans makes terrific use of his authentic locations. Similarly, aside from a ridiculous central coincidence, the script is well written, with each story exerting a subtle emotional grip, even if Gravelle's character is shaded a little too unsympathetically.
The film's main problem is the pacing, which drags considerably in the middle section before picking up significantly in the third act; it's also a good 20 minutes or so too long. Plus, there is a slight issue with the climax of the Wales-based story, which may not work for everyone, particularly if plausibility is one of your bugbears.
Patagonia is an enjoyable, emotionally engaging drama with striking photography and strong performances. Worth seeing.