By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated September 01, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

She speaks Welsh, he speaks Yiddish, and in the hills of rural Wales in 1911, the two are a forbidden match, their clans separated by ignorance and economic hardship. Solomon and Gaenor, nominated this year for a foreign-film Oscar, is a Romeo and Juliet tragedy of surprising power, not least because of the exotic historical specificity of its Welsh-Jewish religious and cultural tensions.

Writer-director Paul Morrison (who has previously made a documentary series exploring the conflicts of British-Jewish identity) pushes the catastrophe of the situation to Shakespearean proportions. But he also gives Solomon’s Jewish family and Gaenor’s strict Welsh Christian kin human-size dignity in their awful pride, staging the action in stark gray settings. And the filmmaker is fortunate to find in Nia Roberts and especially the dynamic Welsh star Ioan Gruffudd (Wilde) a pair of star-cross’d lovers able to express intensity in three languages. To hear the actor who played Horatio Hornblower on TV speak Yiddish is a moment of cross-culturalism to savor. B+

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