Ae Fond Kiss (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner14/09/2004

Four out of five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Ken Loach isn't the first name that springs to mind when you think of feelgood romantic drama, but, nevertheless, that's what he's come up with with his latest film, Ae Fond Kiss, which recently played at the Edinburgh Film Festival to both critical and public acclaim. Perhaps Ken has mellowed in his old age? At any rate, Ae Fond Kiss is his most commercial film to date and it deserves to be seen, despite its slightly off-putting title.

Newcomer Atta Yaqub plays Casim, a second-generation Pakistani living in Glasgow. He is devoted to his Muslim family, but also has a double-life, working as a DJ and enjoying the accompanying hedonistic lifestyle. Apprehensive about his upcoming arranged marriage, but too afraid to stand up to his family, Casim complicates things still further when he falls in love with feisty Irish teacher Roisin (Eva Birthistle, also making her debut). The inevitable culture clashes ensue and Roisin finds that her own community are also less than supportive.

Loach is well known for getting superb, naturalistic performances out of his actors, and Ae Fond Kiss proves no exception - Yaqub and Birthistle give extremely likeable, complex, realistic performances, coming across as real people as opposed to the kind of stereotypes the culture-clash couple plot might suggest. (It doesn't hurt that they're both kind of gorgeous, either).

Though it's not quite a romantic comedy, there's a lot of humour in Paul Laverty's witty script, most of it courtesy of two outstanding supporting players: Ahmad Riaz as Casim's father, whose thick Glaswegian / Pakistani accent almost steals the film on its own; and Shabana Bakhsh as Casim's rebellious younger sister Tahara, who looks to Casim for valuable support in breaking away from tradition. She also provides the amusing catalyst for the first meeting between Roisin and Casim, when she chases a bully into Roisin's classroom, pursued by her brother.

The film is extremely engaging and frequently moving - you'll be willing the characters to work everything out by the end. Indeed, the fact that Loach's previous films have been largely on the downbeat side actually adds to the tension because you're constantly expecting it to all go horribly wrong for them both.

In short, Ae Fond Kiss is a well written, impressively directed and beautifully acted romantic drama - here's hoping that both Yaqub and Birthistle receive the acclaim they deserve come BAFTA time. Recommended.

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Content updated: 26/09/2015 06:53

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