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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ken Loach's very touching, realistic A Fond Kiss (actually "Ae Fond
Kiss"; it's a phrase from a Robert Burns poem) is a Glasgow
star-crossed lovers story. A blonde lady called Roisin (Eva Birthistle)
teaches music in a state-supported Catholic school. She and Casim (Atta
Yaqub) meet and fall in love. Casim grew up in Glasgow but has
Pakistani Moslem parents. He breaks out of an arranged marriage and
lives with Roisin. For living out of wedlock Roisin's moved out of the
Catholic school, where she's a favorite of students, before end of
term. Casim's family uses every wile to lure him back to the arranged
marriage, but he and Roisin stay together and say a gently ironic
pledge of loyalty to each other. They know (and we know) it's not going
to be easy.
A little rough-hewn like its Glasgow environment, A Fond Kiss is simple and sincere. The principles are non-actors. In the wake of Mike Leigh's polished little gem, Vera Drake, we're aware of the rawness of this effort, but it has a freshness and emotional validity Leigh's techniques sometimes lose. There's a surprising amount of flesh in Casim's and Roisin's encounters: Loach may be socially conscious, but he isn't averse to being sexy. There's not the wit and the sophistication of the 1985 Frears/Kureishi collaboration My Beautiful Laundrette, which still stands as perhaps the classic British cross-cultural love story and also one of the most novelistically complex films in English of the past two decades.
Maybe A Fond Kiss has its emotional impact for just that reason: it sticks firmly to the saga of Casim and Roisin: all external events and characters are seen exclusively in relation to them, though the emotional pain felt by Casim's parents at "losing" their son is vividly shown. Laundrette shone at treating a gay love story within the context of other, straight, experiences, such as the world weary gloom of Omar's Papa, and the burgeoning capitalism of other relations. Loach's film has a thicker patina of authenticity: the Glaswegian accents are sometimes near-impenetrable and you can follow better when the Pakistanis are talking in Urdu with subtitles. It's an essential point that Casim's English is as Glaswegian as Roisin's, and a slicker actor couldn't have achieved that.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw noted "an unfashionable streak of optimism" running thorough A Fond Kiss while Philip French spoke of "an unusually romantic and non-political mode." True, on both counts, but "non-political" doesn't mean the social aspects of the situation aren't deftly and completely outlined for us. A BBC critic called Kiss "believable, intelligent film-making but quibbled that "considering the makers' pedigree, Ae Fond Kiss... is more of a peck than a smacker." US critics have given the film a fair rating, noting its cultural balance, but with reservations about the technical competence of the piece. All this is a bit unfair, because roughness has its virtues as polish has its faults. This is one of Loach's sunniest, most moving efforts; it's a shame that due to limited release it won't be seen by more of the US public.
Shown at the Quad Cinema in New York in early December 2004.
English television and film director Ken Loach's eighteenth feature
film which was written by Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty, premiered
In competition at the 54th Berlin International Film Festival in 2004,
was shot on location in Glasgow, Scotland and is a
UK-Italy-Germany-Spain co-production which was produced by English
producer Rebecca O'Brien. It tells the story about a Pakistani Dj and
student named Casim Khan who lives in a city in Scotland with his
father, mother and two sisters. One day when he is at the Catholic
school which his younger sister named Tahara attends, Casim meets a
teacher and pianist named Roisin Hanlon whom he immediately takes a
liking to. Casim connects with Roisin and all though his parents has
decided that he is going to marry his cousin named Jasmine which Roisin
is unaware of, he starts a relationship with her which goes from a kiss
to something far more serious.
Subtly and finely directed by European filmmaker Ken Loach, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the two main characters viewpoints, draws a gentle and incisive portrayal of an Irish woman who falls in love with a man who is promised away to someone else and a Glasgowian-Pakistani student named Tahara who wants to leave Glasgow to go to a school in the capital city of Scotland where she can become a journalist. While notable for it's naturalistic milieu depictions, fine cinematography by English cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and production design by English production designer Martin Johnson, this character-driven and narrative- driven story about the adversity a man and a woman of different ethnicity are faced with after they find each other, depicts two humane and interrelated studies of character and contains a great score by English composer George Fenton.
This atmospheric, conversational, somewhat historic and at times humorous love-story from the early 2000s which is set in Spain and Scotland in the early 21st century and where a natural romance between two human beings leads a man into a dilemma which entails that he has to go against his family's wishes to be with the woman he loves and a woman into a conflict with the parish priest at her school, is impelled and reinforced by it's cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, eloquent and natural intimacy and the involving acting performances by Irish actress Eva Birthisle, Scottish actor Atla Yaqub in his debut feature film role and Scottish actress Shabana Akhtar Bakhsah. A romantic, authentic and sociological drama which gained, among numerous other awards, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 54th Berlin Film Festival in 2004 and which is dedicated to the memory of Martin Johnson.
This is not a new story and many people will dismiss it after seeing a
trailer or reading a short synopsis. This would be a mistake as this is
a smart movie which doesn't take sides or have any hidden agenda.
There is a strong sense of hope and an intimacy you don't normally see at the multiplex. By setting a romance on a forbidden platform you automatically raise the emotional stakes so that right from the start you get attached to the characters. This obviously depends on the strength of the acting of the two leads. In this case there is nothing to worry about.
At times it feels a bit like a storyline from a British soap opera until you realize that it is Ken Loach and he always goes one step further - the sex scenes are almost embarrassingly intimate, the arguments are seriously intense and there are no tidy conclusions. This is true to life. There are no easy answers, just a series of decisions and consequences. Looking forward to the next one...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wasn't aware of this movie at all, not knowing anything of the story before I saw it on UK cable pay-per-view. The blurb was enough for me to want to watch it. I can relate to the main male lead as I too am a second generation British Asian of Pakistani parentage. I am not usually a fan of romance movies but it had Ken Loach among its credits so I decided to watch it...and I am so glad that I did. For the first time I saw an accurate portrayal of the duality of cultures and the pressures faced by young asians as their parents try to do what they think is best. I think the new male lead, Atta Yaqub, did a commendable job but for me the female lead and Casim's younger sister Tahara were truly excellent. I watched the movie with some friends from school, all of us British asians, and most of the stuff from the film was spot on. For example, when Casim asks Roisin to duck down as they drive past his cousins takeaway...I've done that too! I did think, though, that the portrayal of the Asian mother was a bit too clichéd and the father never came across too well either but other than that this was a real gem. For an accurate portrayal of what so many British Asian men and women have to contend with watch this film.
This story was more than a love story, it really spoke to the difficulties those from different backgrounds can face in a relationship (with family, society, in careers, in living together, measuring their success). I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end and will re-watch it when I get the chance. It had just the right amounts of humor, romance, sensuality, and drama to make it enjoyable for both men and women. The actors had wonderful chemistry, which adds to the believability and likability in a love story. Very well acted, a gem and highly recommended! I hope to see more and more of both main characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perusing OnDemand one day that I was sick, I came across this film and
gave it a try. I am so glad that I did. It's not slick and polished at
all, but the acting, the emotional tension, all feel very real. And
it's just a wonderful love story for a change.
At times in this film their relationship seems impossible. It's frustrating and painful. Nobody magically comes around in some irritatingly saccharine way, but the resolution feels real and is happy.
Finally, I felt the chemistry between the two lead actors. The sex was erotic and real but did not feel gratuitous.
Yes, it is a modern Romeo and Julia. Yes, it is about interracial and
inter cultural relationship and yes, it has been dealt many time before
by some European directors. But, let me ask you; do we have such a
movie made by a Hollywood directors or producers? Why, not? The civil
right movements is 40 years ago, isn't it? This is a honest and simple
film telling the love story of a young Muslim Pakistani raised in
Glasgow and a young Irish teacher (a splendid performance by ms
Birthistle). It is taken from a daily live with recognizable stereotype
of cultural status quo of the second generations immigrants in Europe.
Maybe to the disappointment of some ppl Ken Loach's approach was
classic. And political correct ;-). But it is done without any cheap
sentiments. The audience was left with an awkward feeling and the
knowledge that their lives aren't going to be easy. You can consider it
as a statement. But IMO such a statement is necessary so long there are
ignorance and disrespect. This has been shamefully demonstrated by the
late controversial Dutch mediocre director van Gogh in his last film
before he was killed.
While a love story between two human being should be a non-issue and to much of a movie screenplay, this one is not. The tensions between Casim and Roisin; between Casim and his parents and between Tahara and the rest of the family concerning her study in Edinbrough are pretty much there. The portrayal of the family meeting where the eldest sister were arranged to meet a young man and her parent in laws were striking.
I feel sorry with the so-called liberal Hollywood bunch where they do not dare to pick interracial love story, which unfortunately still an issue there. I remember the Pelican Brief where Denzel Washington has to restrain himself not to kiss Julia Robert. Hypocritical.
I have a dream that I will one day live in a world where people will not be judged by the color of their skin, their religion or their cultural background but by the content of their character as human being.
I am feeling quite awkward about the characters in this film,
especially the girl, Roisin. All through the story, I had the
impression that she was behaving in an extremely selfish way - though
this may also be understandable as she felt threatened by the behaviour
of the Pakistani family. But still, she never seemed to understand any
viewpoint different to hers - not even the fact that her boyfriend was
torn between his love to her and his family.
The film exemplified very well the different mentalities of, on the one hand, a Western city single, completely unattached, and, on the other hand, an immigrant community where the family and honour are highly valued.
I had some trouble with Roisin's relationship towards her Catholicism: we were never shown if she was faithful or just a nominal Catholic who wanted to remain so because she wanted to teach in a Catholic school. She does not seem to draw any strength from faith, but lives in a rather self-centered manner. The introduction of the sectarian fanaticism of the parish priest was interesting, because the Catholics in Britain are themselves (and were even more so in the past) a rather close-knit community, similarly to the Pakistanis and Muslims in the country.
Some reviewers here seemed not to have understood what the priest's problem was with her - it was not (so much) that she was unmarried, living with a man, but that she was, in the eyes of the Church, still married to her ex-husband, but lived with another man (thus in adultery). It seems a bit mysterious to me why she hadn't applied for annulment herself, as is suggested by the priest (sometimes also called "divorce Catholic style"). But as I have already said, we don't get to know very much about her whole relationship towards religion anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
According to the facts presented in this film, I was completely unaware
of how many died in the 1947 transition of India and Pakistan.
According to the film "Ghandi" it was more rioting vs deaths. I imagine
the same issues arose when Israel was formed and Palestinians were
forced to migrate. However, I digress. But no, one more mention of a
"Harry Potter" sequel and a beautiful Asian student with a Scottish
accent. This was my first foray into visual vs audio conflict. The
contrast is also illustrated here with a Pakistani Scottish brogue. It
prepared me for more significant cultural contrasts in the film.
Roisin is a beautiful, talented, free-spirited vibrant young woman who is attracted to a handsome, kind, sensual Muslim man, already betrothed to another of his culture. I have experienced this type of relationship and to this day hope that the decision to live in the US will loosen the bigotry and scandal associated with such couples. How many children have moved substantial distances over the centuries to harvest new opportunities, happiness, adventure and parents accept this loss, albeit with immense grief. It is called letting go.
I appreciate that preservation of culture, religion and customs are ideal goals, but not to the detriment of cultivating hatred and isolation from all other people. The US may be viewed as a destroyer of these elements, however, the welcoming and warmth to diversity is a true strength of our country. Despite immigration issues that remain unsolved, I am proud of the attempts to assimilate those who desire to relocate here. How would they feel if we were to come to their country??
I was surprised at the resolve of the couple to remain together after the many attempts to demean their relationship and future. I would have given up after the many reminders of family destruction because they can no longer impress their friends. Who needs that shallowness that is integral to old country class infrastructure.
I relished the role of the Catholic priest who chastises Roisin in her personal choices given the current stigma of many priests' choices. I can not wait until women are given equal opportunity to rise up to the challenges within the Church!
I noted at end credits that there was a unit dedicated to Spain but I saw very little of that country and wanted to know where they escaped. I always look for the background shots in countries I have not visited and many times it is the star of the show. However the culture clash was the focus. The portrayal of both sides was heavily biased towards the Muslim culture but this is what I needed more than a review of mine.
High recommend for an attempt to comprehend the sacrifices made to relocate to a new country and the ensuing assimilation by children. The dialogue is hard to comprehend at times, hence suggest the closed caption option.
This is just a good movie dealing exceptionally well with several complex issues. The chemistry had to be perfect, and it is. Yaquin and Eva Birthistle.. bit.ly/1fUu8Wk.. together they completely make this film work. Their performances are so warm and natural you become totally lost in the story. Lots of films deal with this same subject, but few do it as well. The points get made, but you're not overpowered by them. Good work all round... a very enjoyable little movie. I watch it a couple times now since first viewing, it rewards on a very similar level each time... that's the sign of a well made and acted film. It really is a timeless story, years down the road will play the same.
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