Separate Communities

Ali and Ava

Director: Clio Barnard

Cast: Claire Rushbrook, Adeel Akhtar, Shaun Thomas, Ellora Torchia

Film Rating: 6 out of 10

Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes

This film has no subtitles

The British entry for the European Film Festival is director Clio Barnard’s intimate film Ali and Ava set in an unnamed dreary Yorkshire city. Claire Rushbrook (Secrets and Lies) stars an Irish emigrant and Grandmother Ava who inadvertently falls in love with Ali, a Pakistani emigrant played by Adeel Akhtar (Victoria and Abdul, The Big Sick).

Ava is living with her youngest son Callum and his girlfriend and baby. Callum is played by rising British star Shaun Thomas, who is angry when his mother Ava brings home Ali for the first time. Both Ali and Ava come from almost closed separate communities. Ava from a white, working class Irish catholic neighbourhood and Ali from an emigrant Muslim neighbourhood. Ali is recently separated from his wife Runa played by Ellora Torchia.

Ava, on the other hand, is recently widowed from Callum’s father who she later confesses was an abusive alcoholic that used to beat her up.

Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds Ali and Ava find a tentative connection through Ali’s tenant’s daughter who Ava teaches, a young Slovakian girl with behaviour problems.

Ali was a DJ before getting married and his love of music is what makes the mutual connection with Ava although her hesitancy at getting involved is not unfounded after her son Callum finds out that she is dating someone from outside the community.

Writer and director Clio Barnard skirts over so many issues in this film and never really finds the right tone for such an intimate love story, often resorting to music as a method for replacing dialogue.

Although both Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar act really well, although there is not much to work with beyond the usual cross-cultural love story within the same town in contemporary Britain.

Issues such as abuse, domestic violence and cultural exclusion are never properly addressed and only really pinpointed in the last 40 minutes of the film. The first half of the film meanders with too much music and not enough storyline or character development.

Ali and Ava is a slightly disappointing film which could have been so much better, considering that the British are normally renowned for making really brilliant films.

Ali and Ava gets a film rating of 6 out of 10 and will have a limited appeal but does address cross cultural love and unlikely couples finding true happiness. This film will find a limited audience.

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