n THE first cinema project to be funded by the Welsh National Lottery - although that was only the final funding, the rest of the cash having being collected from elsewhere - Mark Evans's House of America is a bleak, powerful, poetic story about a dysfunctional family who survive on a dream that will never be fulfilled. Possibly it owes its strength as a story to the fact the lottery cash came last, writes William Russell.
Some lottery films to date suggest that, had money not been there, more time might have been spent on the script. Based on the play by Edward Thomas, seen at the Edinburgh Festival some years back, it deals with the impact on Mam (Sian Phillips) and her three children of the arrival in the valley of an American open-cast mining company.
The elder son, Steven Mackintosh, the mainstay of the family, who escapes the grim reality of their life in the America of Jack Kerouac, has an incestuous relationship with his sister, Lisa Palfrey. The younger son, Matthew Rhys, is a sweet-natured, tortured soul who cannot cope with reality. Their father left years ago for America and has not been heard of since. The family dream of being reunited.
Loading article content
However, it all falls apart when the excavations start to threaten their home and, Mam, who has a history of mental trouble, is driven over the edge.
Evans has used his camera with skill and used Welsh bands to provide an evocative soundtrack. Aided by powerful performances from his four leading players, and a first-rate screenplay from Thomas, Evans has managed to make a film which manages to be provocative, intelligent, and entertaining.
The other Welsh film in the Festival, Camelon, a first feature for its director, Ceri Sherlock, is equally good. Written by Juliet Ace, it is about a young soldier, Delme Davis (Aneirin Hughes), who deserts from the army after the horror of Dunkirk. Suffering what we now know to be post-traumatic stress disorder, he returns to his terraced home in a South Wales village where he is given shelter in the attic by his mother. The six houses share the roof space and the reluctant prisoner becomes an eavesdropper on the families who live in them.
He becomes involved in the lives of the occupants, bringing succour to some and tragedy to others, like the girl he left behind, now married to someone else, who becomes pregnant with his child. Eventually he emerges from the shadows.
It is a simple tale beauti- fully told, photographed, and played. The language which the characters speak is Welsh, that's possibly how it was in 1942. The subtitles work a treat for once.
q House of America, Filmhouse 2, 8pm tomorrow, 1pm Sunday.
q Camelon Cameo 2, 7pm on Sunday.