PATAGONIA narrates the journeys of two women, one looking for her past, the other for her future.

By Lee Isherwood | 4 March 2011

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PATAGONIA narrates the journeys of two women – one looking for her past, the other for her future. The film intercuts between their stories, in which one of them travels south to north through the Welsh springtime and the other east to west through the Argentine autumn.

Gwen is Welsh, in her thirties, and she has been in a relationship with Rhys for seven years. They are a thoroughly modern urban Welsh couple living in Cardiff. He is a photographer, she an actress. On the surface they seem quite happy but for some time now they have been struggling to have a child and it’s not happening. When Rhys is sent to Welsh Patagonia on a photographic project, Gwen decides to accompany him, hoping that for a while at least they can forget their woes and the ongoing strain of Gwen’s inability to conceive. Patagonia, their imagined romantic place of dreams, will perhaps weave it’s magic on them. Their guide through this vast landscape is a young Welsh Patagonian called Mateo, who, as well as being handsome, epitomizes the carefree spirit of the herdsman. Gwen falls for Mateo, and her dream trip with Rhys turns nightmarish as the couple separate in the middle of the desert. Each embarks on a personal journey, but ultimately – as their love for each other prevails – they are reunited in the beautiful foothills of the Andes. There they discover that the adventure of Patagonia is just escapism and that the real business of daily life cannot long be kept on hold. Whether they ever succeed in having a child we do not learn, but at the end of the film we feel sure that Gwen’s future is with Rhys.

Cerys, an elderly diabetic Argentine who lives in the southern Andes, prepares to travel to Buenos Aires for a cataract operation. At least that’s what her son and daughter-in-law are led to believe. The cagey old woman has another scheme in mind – a much longer and more intrepid journey to the north of Wales. A fading photograph provides the underlying reason for her plan. The picture is of a Welsh girl outside “Nant Briallu”, a farm in the Welsh hills. The young woman, who turns out to have been pregnant, is Cerys’ mother. As punishment for sinning out of wedlock – and in deep shame – she is sent to relatives in Patagonia, from whence she never returns to the land of her birth. Cerys’ pilgrimage is an effort to solve the mystery of her own origin, for she has no idea who fathered her, and to find her mother’s home. Accompanying Cerys is her somewhat neurotic nephew Alejandro, who, reluctant at first to go along with the old woman’s madcap adventure, ultimately finds that he enjoying the trip of a lifetime. At their journey’s end Cerys is dying. She has made the poignant discovery that her mother’s village has been lost for ever when, half a century earlier, the valley was flooded to create a reservoir. Alejandro, for his part, has fallen in love with a Welsh girl. In contrast to Gwen’s story of an uncertain future, Cerys’ tale is of an unresolved past.

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