Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Ae Fond Kiss

Reviews - Ae Fond Kiss

Ae Fond Kiss

Reviewed By Darren Horne

Minor spoilers follow

Ken Loach has always been a bit of an odd fish. Some people speak of him with a sense of awe, which is something I could never understand. Those few films of his that I have glimpsed always seemed to be dreary, dull and, for want of a better word – real; but real in a bad way, like soap operas try to be real. When those lights of the cinema dim and a hush cascades over the audience I want to be entertained, taken to a magical world. I don’t want to be reminded of Pat Butcher chain smoking in a nicotine yellow café.
Thankfully this film side steps that entire proletarian, only happy when it rains, content in our misery melancholy and is a far lighter affair.

I was wary at first, after all the plight of a second generation Pakistani Muslim that falls for an Irish Catholic lass and has to fight cultural prejudice really has no similarity with my own life. In fact the whole notion of extended families, arranged marriages and family responsibility is quite foreign to me. I needn’t have been so wary, as this film is a reminder that the language of love is universal.

Where it succeeds is in its superb casting. From the opening scene the feisty Tahara (Shabana Bakhsh) will have you hooked, with a performance that highlights the effects of race related bullying, and reminds us that it is still very much alive in this country.

Of course this film is not primarily about Tahara, it is about her older brother Casim (Atta Yaquab), and Roisin (Eva Birthistle). Once I heard Roisins Irish accent there was no escape for me. With any film based around a romance it is always important to in some way fall in love with one of the leads; something Eva pulls off with ease. Her performance here is unbelievably strong, reminiscent of an Irish Scarlett Johanson. Where has this actress been hiding?
It is Eva’s portrayal of vulnerability, heartbreak and compassion that lend the proceedings a sense of realism. Roisin is a real character, her emotions are real; to the point that it feels invasive, if not voyeuristic, that we are watching her.

At times you will want to reach into the screen and give her a hug, letting her know it’s all going to be okay and that Casim is not good enough for her. One such time is when her parish priest, superbly played by Gerard Kelly, launches into a tirade of condemnation at her behaviour. He makes you want to run along to church immediately to confess your sins, not matter what your religion is; and I thought that Casim’s family were being tyrannical!

Not only is this film entertaining, but educational too. The sympathetic and understanding portrayal of the Pakistani Muslim culture that incorporates a very strong case for arranged marriages, can do nothing but enlighten those of us that live in predominantly white areas The only problem arranged marriages have is that the fun of being in love IS the risk; the sheer panic that the next word you say may cause the object of your desire to rush out of your life never to be seen again.
This is what makes Casim’s and Roisin’s rollercoaster of a relationship such great viewing; where as a marriage based on common sense is a contradiction in terms.
The sex scenes are worth a mention, not because they are explicit, but because they are so immediate and genuine. It truly feels like this is the first time this couple have been intimate with one another, with the same awkwardness and use of humour. We do not see a great deal of their bodies, but the emotion and the eroticism is powerful enough to fluster any viewer. But again this is because we feel like a voyeur, peeping in through a window at a couple connecting physically and emotionally for the first time.

Not to be too over dramatic, but this film could be the greatest Romeo and Juliet story since Shakespeare. The development of the relationship between Casim and Roisin is delicate and touching; never overly sentimental or romantic, with an ending that fittingly retains an ambiguity; after all, in love nothing is certain.

Score 5/5

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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