Director: Endaf Emlyn
This subtitled Welsh-language drama deals with a remembered childhood that is, if anything, more harrowing than those depicted by Bill Douglas or Terence Davies. The film is based on a tragic novel by Caradog Prichard, about a mother (Betsan Uwyd) driven to madness and a boy (Tudor Roberts) driven to murder by guilt and repression in a remote, poor, North Wales slate-mining community in the 1920s — and is essentially of the poetic naturalism school. But in keeping with its Celtic roots, director Endaf Emlyn adopts a more distanced, mysterious stance.
It cuts back and forward from the '50s to the '20s, as a man (Dyfan Roberts) revisits in mind and body the village where he spent his traumatic, fatherless adolescence with his hard-pressed mother.- Past and present begin to meld. The film shows their hard daily lives, conducted under the vigilant sin-watching eye of the church, with matter-of-fact honesty and no little humour. The bright, imaginative boy (angels are no stranger to him) has a warm relationship with his mother: she sings to him and allows him into her bed when he is troubled. But she is vulnerable: when she is assaulted (presumably raped) by a mad itinerant tinker, her frenzied need for expiation pushes her over the edge, and unbalances the boy. Emlyn's attitude to redemption is as enigmatic as the recurring images — scudding skies over green hills, cleansing water, the impassive face of the Virgin. How much does heaven allow? .
• Wally Hammond, Time Out