In Glasgow, Scotland, the Pakistani parents of Casim Khan have decided that he is going to marry his cousin Jasmine. Unfortunately, Casim has just fallen in love with his younger sister's music teacher Roisin. Not only is she 'goree', a white woman, she is also Irish and catholic, things that may not go down well with Casim's parents. They start a relationship but Casim is torn between following his heart and being a good son.Written by
British filmmaker Ken Loach is a rare commodity. The man should be revered. He consistently makes superb films, movies that comment on important social issues. And he's never been tempted to go Hollywood.
He's appreciated in Europe, but he should be in the United States, too. I consider Loach and fellow Briton Mike Leigh to be the most socially conscious filmmakers working today. Just look at some of Loach's remarkable films - "Kes" (1969), "Riff-Raff" (1990), "Hidden Agenda" (1990), "Raining Stones" (1993), "Ladybird Ladybird" (1994), "Carla's Song" (1996) and "My Name is Joe" (1998). They may not all be masterworks, but they're more emotionally satisfying, funny and poignant than most Hollywood films.
It's a shame Hollywood doesn't have an equivalent to Loach or Leigh. We have the marvelous John Sayles, but he's alone and he, too, doesn't work in the Hollywood system.
In "A Fond Kiss," Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty tackle the age-old conflict of star-crossed lovers. In this case, it's Casim Khan (Atta Yaqub), a second-generation Pakistani immigrant, and Irishwoman Roisin Hanlon (Eva Birthistle) in Glasgow, Scotland. Casim's a DJ with lofty plans to open his own club; Roisin's a music teacher at the Catholic school attended by Casim's sister, Tahara (Shabana Bakhsh). As expected, Casim's family made plans for him to marry a cousin. And he's caught between obligations to his family and his love for Roisin.
This might seem familiar. And it is. But what Loach and Laverty do is elevate their story to another level, stripping off any artifice and making it as sincere, human and believable as possible. Biracial couples, especially, will understand and appreciate the genuine storytelling. The movie's final scene is beautifully written and acted.
There's something deeply honest about Yaqub and Brithistle's performances. These aren't Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan pretending to be normal people. There's nothing artificially cute or movie-like about Casim and Roisin's romance and relationship. These are two people extremely comfortable with each other. Their conversations are frank; their problems are real; their anguish and joy ring completely true. Even their lovemaking has nothing artificial about it.
Yaqub wasn't a professional actor when Loach cast him. So Yaqub brings certain rawness to his role that's very welcome. But that also exposes his shortcomings. There are moments that require a bit more emotion from Yaqub, scenes that would play better if he were stronger. But he gets ample support from Birthistle. This really is her movie.
From the first moment we see her, Birthistle captivates us. Her reactions to everything that happens to her - from ecstasy with Casim to pain with his sister - there isn't one thing false about her performance. It's so easy for us to sympathize and empathize with her because she draws us in with a wonderfully subtle, nuanced and open performance.
There's also a superb cameo from Gerard Kelly as a sanctimonious priest.
We rarely get to see films such as "A Fond Kiss" in the U.S. Films that bravely tackle social issues, expose our prejudices and force us to think and understand other people and cultures. Loach's oeuvre includes one movie made in the U.S. - "Bread and Roses" (2000). He hasn't returned to make another one. Pity. Just imagine how much richer the American film industry would be if it had filmmakers of Loach's integrity and caliber.
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