The Testimony Of Taliesin Jones

on February 01, 2002 by Susan Green
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   When survivors are interviewed after some terrible catastrophe, such as a plane crash, they tend to credit their prayers. It never seems to occur to those lucky people that fellow passengers who perished were surely also asking God for a miracle as the aircraft plunged.

   This contradiction is pivotal to any film exploring the issue of faith. In “The Testimony of Taliesin Jones,” the title role is that of a 12-year-old Welch boy (John Paul Macleod) on a quest for divine intervention. After his mother (Geraldine James) leaves town to find herself, Taliesin continues living on the farm with his bereft father (Jonathan Pryce) and angry brother (Matthew Rhys). But the boy finds solace only at the home of piano teacher Billy Evans (Ian Bannen, in a final performance before his 1999 death), a gentle and sympathetic neighbor whose laying-on-of-hands appears to cure the sick.

   As an apprentice healer trying to avoid harassment from a school bully, Taliesin manages to rid his own hands of embarrassing warts and sets out to help others who are ailing. The headmaster (Griff Rhys Jones) is dismayed when this crusade backfires with a diabetic student but understands how important the cause is to Taliesin, whose Christian belief system remains the bottom line. The crisis even brings his mother, now living with another man, back into the picture to possibly rejoin the family.

   Screenwriter Maureen Tilyou, director Martin Duffy and an extremely competent cast handle the controversial aspects of the topic in an even-handed manner. The warts, for example, might have merely responded to a folksy herbal remedy rather than the supplications of an adolescent. Nonetheless, such movies are invariably meant to be uplifting, and that's hard to accomplish without either sentimentality or close encounters of the heavenly kind.    Starring John Paul Macleod, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Bannen, Geraldine James, Matthew Rhys and Griff Rhys Jones. Directed by Martin Duffy. Written by Maureen Tilyou. Produced by Ben Goddard and Louise Clark Goddard. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 106 min.

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