Saturday, August 27, 2022

Ali & Ava

Clio Barnard: Ali & Ava (GB 2021) starring Adeel Akhtar (Ali) and Claire Rushbrook (Ava).

Ali & Ava / Ali & Ava.
    GB 2021. PC: Moonspun Films. P: Tracy O'Riordan.
    D+SC: Clio Barnard. Cin: Ole Bratt Birkeland. PD: Stéphane Collonge. Set dec: Celina Norris. Cost: Sophie O'Neill. Makeup: Fiona Lobo-Cranston. Hair: Rebecca Gavin. SFX: Scott MacIntyre. VFX: Louise Hastings. M: Harry Escott. S: Michael Maroussas, Gunnar Óskarsson. ED: Maya Maffioli. Casting: Shaheen Baig.
    C: Adeel Akhtar (Ali), Claire Rushbrook (Ava), Shaun Thomas (Callum), Natalie Gavin (Dawn), Mona Goodwin (Michelle), Krupa Pattani (Usma), Vinny Dhillon (Jameela), Tasha Connor (Karen), Macy Shackleton (Venice), Ariana Bodorova (Sofia).
    Soundtrack credits: "Radio" (Amelia Meath & Nicolas Sanborn) perf. Sylvan Esso. "Mama, You Been On My Mind" (Bob Dylan) perf. Bob Dylan, "Grace" (Frank and Seán O'Meara, 1985, arr. Harry Escott, 2021), sung by Karan Casey.
    Loc: Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, UK.
    Language: English.
    95 min
    Festival premiere: 11 July 2021 Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.
    British festival premiere: 13 Oct 2021 BFI London Film Festival.
    British premiere: 4 March 2022.
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2022, released by Atlantic Film, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maarit Tulkki / Michaela Palmberg.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand 4, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta 27 Aug 2022.

Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs synopsis:

" Both lonely for different reasons, Ali and Ava meet through their shared affection for Sofia (six years old), the child of Ali’s Slovakian tenants, whom Ava teaches. Ali finds comfort in Ava’s warmth and kindness and Ava finds Ali’s complexity and humour irresistible. Over a lunar month, sparks fly and a deep connection begins to grow. However, the legacy of Ava’s past relationship and Ali’s emotional turmoil at the breakdown of his marriage begins to overshadow their newfound passion. "

AA: Ali and Ava have both experienced hardship. Ava, the mother of four, works as a school assistant. Ali, an enterprising Pakistanian taxi driver, landlord and DJ, helps a tenant's daughter to school, and that's how they meet.

Daily, Ali meets racist abuse. Ava has been suffering from domestic abuse from her husband Paul who has recently died. Her racist son Callum seems to follow in his father's footsteps and chases Ali away with a sword.

But Ali & Ava is a tale of friendly persuasion. Ali refuses to resign, and Ava is patiently pursuing her own path. Against prejudice from all sides, Ali and Ava recognize that their hearts must come together.

Clio Barnard's visual storytelling ranges from kitchen sink to cosmic visions (the progress of the lunar month is a key visual theme), from handheld extreme close-ups to gorgeous panoramas of the city vista of Bradford.

The soundtrack is enormously appealing. Ali and Ava get acquainted via their contrasting musical preferences. In my favourite sequence of the movie, Ali uses his DJ skills to deflect a racist situation and turns it into song and dance.

The soundtrack is topped during the end credits when we hear Karan Casey give a breathtaking interpretation of the 1985 ballad "Grace" by Frank and Seán O'Meara. That ballad is the story of Grace Gifford (1888–1955) who "married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising" (Wikipedia).

Grace is also the name of Callum's baby born during the movie. The name is essential in the context of the anagnorisis. Callum has been ignorant of his revered father's domestic violence against both Ava and his girlfriend who has Indian ancestry. Callum now gives up his father's boots with which Paul used to kick the women and also the sword with which Callum had threatened Ali. Callum's daughter will not be called Paula but Grace.

Ali & Ava is character-driven, and Clio Barnard directs Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar and everyone else in deeply felt and authentic performances. As I saw the poster of this movie my instant reflex was Angst essen Seele auf / Fear Eats the Soul, but Ali & Ava is nothing like that. It's an optimistic film, not of an "optimism of the will" but an optimism of character and faith in humanity. And grace.

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