At the Exeter
"The Woman of Dolwyn" was originally released as "Dolwyn," and that title is a more accurate one. Though the film contains several excellent characterizations, in essence it is the story of the death by drowning of the Welsh village of Dolwyn, in the last years of the 19th century. Dolwyn is a completely rural community, caught in the gears of the Industrial Revolution. As part of a plan to supply water to the growing city of Liverpool, the Lord of Lancashire intends to flood the valley of Dolwyn, thus causing the destruction of the ancient village.
The effect of this plan on Dolwyn's inhabitants furnishes most of the drama of the movie. The combination of rolling, verdant landscapes and simple country people invokes those hazy, romantic adjectives, "delightful" and "charming." "The Woman of Dolwyn" is genuinely moving as well, although the film is occasionally marred when it leaves character study for melodrama.
Emlyn Williams, who played the lead in "Montserrat" this season on Broadway, has undertaken a triple assignment in this film. He has not only written and directed "The Woman of Dolwyn," but is also co-starred as Lord Lancashire's agent in charge of buying out the landowners of the village. In all three capacities he has performed sensitively and perhaps even poetically for three-quarters of the picture. His conclusion, however, in which an almost saintly village matron releases the floodgates of a dam to inundate her beloved Dolwyn, seems incredibly out of keeping with the rest of the picture. The matron, nevertheless, is almost always a believable and winning person, played with great tenderness by Dame Edith Evans.
One of the notable achievements of "The Woman of Dolwyn" lies in its treatment of the love scenes between Richard Burton and Andrea Lea. The imminent destruction of Dolwyn makes them realize their love, and express it in some quiet but strongly dramatic moments. Completing a universally excellent cast are Barbara Couper as Lady Dolwyn and Hugh Griffith as the village's minister.
"The Woman of Dolwyn" is, for the most part, an honest and successful film. Its imperfections are chiefly in an artificial denouement, but so gripping is the mood evoked earlier that arbitrary and clumsy parts of the movie are easily overlooked.