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Rash is an understated, rite of passage film set in modern day Wales. ALEC BLACKWELL (20’s) a streetwise, quick-witted chancer misses his coach home from a music festival in Dolgellau. Penniless and stranded, he sets about earning the cash he needs to return home. But, in his desperate endeavour to do so, is all that he is searching for in life right where he has been left?
A coach splutters away from the centre of Dolgellau - a bustling Mid-Wales market town. Alec unsuccessfully tries to gain its driver’s attention but fails leaving him stranded with a rucksack under a leaden sky. He curses the coach furiously before trudging away. All of this is seen by CYRRIAD YATES (20’s) - a calm, centred, global citizen - roots in Wales; mind in the World.
Alec arrives at a farm and is watched cautiously by GEORGE (60’s) and GWEN (60’s) who have farmed this land forever. It’s clear he’s pitching his tent exactly where it had previously been. He explains that he needs to stay on a while longer but he’ll need to find some work to pay for his camping fees and a new ticket home. They say nothing; their expressions unreadable.
Alec goes from shop to shop in the centre of town looking unsuccessfully for work, occasionally spotted by Cyrriad. When it’s time to return home he gets talking to her but it’s fractious - she’s seemingly unsympathetic to his situation (constantly pointing out positives in his situation - he constantly blaming the world). Some of her words landed though as he negotiates a deal with George, that sees him doing some farm duties in return for his camping fees. The following morning he finds fresh milk, eggs and bacon outside his tent. He has to concede that some of Cyrriad’s words were once again , and somewhat annoyingly, true.
Later that morning he bumps into her again whilst continuing to look for work but this time the conversation is easier and she tells him the name of the bar she goes to. Somewhat buoyed he sits in the Town Square and hears a tour guide explaining the history of Dolgellau. But it’s the point about the Welsh gold in the hills around it that land on his ears. He looks up and meets Cyrriad’s gaze - she smiles.
Alec spends the following days panning for Welsh gold high in the streams around the Town. Initially frustrated by the lack of success in his endeavours, he stops and admires the beauty in his surroundings - the Dippers and Wagtails becoming more familiar with his presence, the sunlit glade that is his new workspace, the wild strawberries trailing down the dry stone walls. Almost as soon as he does this, he finds his first tiny spec of gold. In the town later, the local jeweler examines his quarry, weighs it, and pays him. He exits the shop and sees Cyrriad finishing her shift at the Spar shop. He shares his good news, but it’s his description of his working environment that pleases her most.
Over the following days, his skills at panning increase and he leaves the jewelers each day with just a bit more to get by. Later in the bar as he explains to Cyrriad he is close to having his fare home, the contradiction between his delight at where he is and what he is doing and the lack of any purpose or reason in him returning home becomes abundantly clear. She invites him to join a sponsored Precipice Walk to raise money for a local kid to travel to the US to get a life saving operation. They do the walk and become closer although his frustration at his lack of direction is at odds with her calm philosophical approach to life and grates at him. Nevertheless he enjoys the walk enormously and is clearly becoming happier having met more of the locals and becoming more comfortable in Cyrriad’s presence.
Things on the panning front continue to go well and Alec’s versatility and usefulness around the farm are increasingly appreciated especially when he steps in to help when George injures his arm. Gwen moves him into a redundant converted barn that her Mother had lived in until a year ago. George takes him fishing and he cooks fresh trout on the BBQ. Later he pauses in astonishment as he ties his own flies for a solo fishing expedition - how did his life end up on this path, where does it lead; what does it mean? Just as he reaches the strongest level of his soul-searching introspection, he finds the biggest piece of Welsh gold that has ever been found - the size of the palm of his hand. He rushes jubilantly to the Town only to find the jewelers shut - gone fishin’!! He rushes to the packed bar and shares his news. The others join in but it gradually becomes clear that the locals know Alec is mistaken. Cyrriad arrives and as tentatively as possible attempts to let him know, but he’s angered and disgusted by their nastiness and he leaves in a fury. Cyrriad remains and rebukes the genuinely-regretful locals. “Bants, innit?” They retort.
Back at the farm Alec downs some beers and stares at the worthless lump of rock. His fury at allowing himself to feel confident and content and leaving himself vulnerable to ridicule welling inside of him. He downs the beer. Moments later outside the pub, he pulls back his arm ready to hurl the rock through the window with a roar that echos in the hills around the town, But as he’s about to let go a hand grabs his throwing hand. It’s Gwenn’s and she holds him - his fury and rage instead reduced to tears on her shoulder.
The following morning he awakes with a hangover to the sound of Cyrriad arriving with breakfast to cook for him. After breakfast they sit high in the hills above the town and finally he opens up. He tells her he feels foolish and angry with himself for allowing himself to feel part of something for the first time in his life. How being bullied was part of his everyday experience of his home and school life. And how the place of safety he found in music was his sanctuary. But the cruelty of it being exactly that which had led him to the music festival here and so therefore this. They hadn’t even noticed I was missing on the bus he points out, when she attempts to reassure him. With the wisdom and centeredness that he so admires about her, she makes him feel a bit better and finally they share a laugh at the irony of the Goldie Lookin Chain t-shirt he’s wearing.
Finally asking Alec what it is he is truly looking for is what eventually gives him some clarity. The beauty of all the things he recognised in his environment, of the love he’d found in the locals, in the simplicity of working with his hands to catch fish, pan for gold, fix the fence that kept the sheep safe, was more important than anything money alone could bring. They arrive on the same page and the resolution to the crazy events of the last few weeks becomes clear and they high on the mountain side, a tiny dot on the universe with a huge world view, they kiss.
En route down the mountain, Alec complains about a rash on his hand - small talk amongst their other discussions of plans for the future. But when he once again complains, a realisation hits her. She takes the lump of false gold from his hand and rambles something meaningless about nicol to him. She takes the rock and scratches it hard against the mountain side. It IS gold. They rush joyfully back to the Town centre - to the jewelry shop………. But they go right past it. Where to though? The pub to gloat perhaps. But they keep running until they arrive at a house festooned in balloons with signs thanking people for taking part in the sponsored walk. He posts the rock through the letterbox and they walk away hand in hand; the world at their feet.