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A Very Frank and Contemporary "Romeo and Juliet"
noralee3 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Ae Fond Kiss" manages to find appealing freshness in a tale probably older than "Romeo and Juliet."

There have been many, many films that have dealt with the conflicts between young lovers from different ethnic or racial backgrounds and there's strengths and weaknesses in how director Ken Loach and his frequent collaborator writer Paul Laverty avoided some clichés while stridently emphasizing some others.

The fresh POV is that the young Glaswegian Muslim/Catholic couple is not naive teenagers experiencing love for the first time, conflating The Other with sexual discovery, but experienced 20-somethings who know perfectly well about the vagaries of relationships. He even expresses surprise that she had entered into her first marriage at the young age of 19.

In addition, this is the first such genre film I can think of where the one in the couple feeling the pull of traditional responsibilities is the guy; usually it's the girl who is drawn to assimilate by a handsome charmer. The gender switch provides an interesting dynamic that effectively shows how ethnic and racial tensions add to the simple interactions or the usual up and down strains that any new relationship goes through. For example, his seductive reaching out to her on an early date emphasizes his fascination with her wavy blonde hair.

While their relationship is allowed to grow gradually out of a mutual interest in music, they develop a frankly, deliciously sexual relationship, whereas most films in the genre gauzily avoid such aspects of interracial romance, going beyond "Mississippi Marsala." They verbally express their feelings for each other with gentle sparring use of epithets -- this is also the first film in the genre I can think of where despite everything they go through they do not declare "I love you."

Each has complexities and pressures in their personal lives that the relationship complicates. Some effort is made to present the Muslim family's viewpoint as coming out of a protective reflex against experienced bigotry from the violence of the Indian partition on. She points out she can't consider his parents as individuals who are other than bigots if he never lets her meet them.

While a younger sister is a conventional rebel (it's a risible cliché of this genre that she wants to be a writer), the older sister has accommodated herself to her cultural requirements in a way to be content in the contemporary world, but this leads her to be desperately pro-active against the couple.

Poignantly, communication across the divide is almost not possible, that slim reed called love may not conquer all, and there is genuine suspense as they split and reunite and split under the stress.

The lead actors are enormously appealing and believable, so we have great compassion for them. George Fenton's music helps to maintain the romantic atmosphere.

On the strident side, their meeting cute is by her breaking up a fight between his sister and racial taunters. The bigotry angle is hammered home culturally incongruously by displays of the notorious lynching postcards with "Strange Fruit" playing in the background.

The Scottish brogues are mostly comprehensible to American ears, though the specifics of some jocular exchanges are lost.

The cinematography well conveys gritty Glasgow.
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Simple, honest, terrific storytelling
anhedonia26 March 2005
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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A measure of realness.
Sinnerman27 August 2004
The Mother. I shall devote most of this post just talking about her.

Nondescript during her first few appearances, she fits the bill of a stereotypical Asian immigrant mom. And thats about it. But to assume just that will also mean that we have not seen enough Ken Loach movies. For it takes but one stolen moment of familial conflict for the woman to sense her troubled son's pain. And like balm over raw open wounds, she unleashes her outbursts of maternal affection. Its easy to understand why the son breaks down there and then. I would too. A mother's intuition is uncanny. To see it approximated so closely on screen, this movie demands my gratitude.

I love the other characters in this great film too - the father, the son's two very different sisters, his best friend and even the white "outsider" love interest. Each character is so well defined, their inter-relationship dynamics so genuine and heartfelt, they deserve my devoting paragraphs each respectively just to shower my compliments. But I shan't do that. I will only be repeating myself.

Hence, this much I shall say; there's something in a Ken Loach film which gets to me each and everytime - the characters. More specifically, I am floored by their measures of realness. They are individuals guided by distinct codes of conduct. Their values explain their actions and exposes their strengths and frailties. Ultimately, these "real" people earn my empathy. There are no saints or sinners in Ken Loach's film universe. Instead, I see human beings relating with each other simply, truly, sometimes madly, but always deeply.

Ae Fond Kiss is one of the best films of the year. Check it.
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Quite wonderful
AKS-616 March 2005
Ae Fond Kiss is Ken Loach's latest movie. It's a movie with that classic basic premise: a woman and a man from different cultures fall in love. Will their love survive what other people think and do? It's a premise we've seen a million times before. But that doesn't make Ae Fond Kiss a bad movie. No, quite the opposite: I think it's wonderful.

First of all, I think the script is amazing. While Casim's family probably is the biggest obstacle for the young couple to overcome, this is by no means a movie which portrays only the Moslems as the bad guys. Roisin's Catholic society isn't much better. This is one of the reasons why the movie is so engaging.

Another reason why I really liked this film is the fantastic performances by all the actors. Eva Birthistle is certainly the standout, but it would be unfair to name any other actor before the others. In short, it's a great cast.

Ae Fond Kiss is a well-played, sweet and very engaging movie. I liked it a lot. It's even a bit better than Loach's Sweet Sixteen. (8/10)
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The highs and lows of inter-racial relationships.
tjkungfu5 August 2005
My wife and I rented this movie because we are so fascinated by films that explore the various issues involved in inter-racial relationships. I am Chinese, and my wife Indian, and it was quite a tumultuous journey from the day we met to the day that we exchanged our wedding vows. Seeing movies like this always brings us a strong feeling of nostalgia.

A Fond Kiss is the love story between Casim, a young Pakistani man, and Roisin, a young Catholic woman, with the backdrop being modern day Scotland. Much of the plot revolve around the Casim's family dynamics, which is a rather modern Muslim household. We are not given much about Roisin's family, but the director gives us a rather bitter depiction of fundamental Catholic dogma. Despite the predictable problems that arise, the story is accompanied by a strong performance from the entire cast, and the use of common Hollywood love-story gimmicks are refreshingly absent from the plot.

I must note that the performance by Casim's father was especially moving for me; you want to judge him quickly for his hypocrisy and bigotry, but soon feel for his predicament. The antagonism he has for "love" marriages arise from his responsibility to love and protect his family, and his tribulations in the past have made him weary of foreigners. I am reminded of the problems I have had with my father-in-law; for the longest time I hated him so much, but only now I see that he's one of the most caring and loving individuals I have ever known, and any problems he gave me was simply his way of testing my devotion to what matters most to him, his daughter and family.

The ending scenes were also beautifully woven together. There are no ridiculous chase scenes or over-exaggerated dialogues. The people who ultimately decide their fates are themselves. It is Casim and Roisin who must determine what their destinies are, and this non-fatalistic scenario is often the case in real life. I know, from my culture as well as my wife's, that in many cases, marriages are arranged, and sometimes forced. Though I try not to make any judgements, I am glad that I live in a society where I still get to choose my partner in life.
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Star-crossed lovers with authentic accents
Chris Knipp11 January 2005
Warning: 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.
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A lovely film
Juliette200510 August 2005
I was taken to this film sort of against my will, I wanted to see something else, and from the first five minutes I knew I was watching something special. Not to give anything away, but this film has a political side that is not often seen in films in the states, but it's not 'heavy handed' about it at all- the political comes out of the family situations. The actors are all wonderful, particularly the woman lead, and I completely believed every situation they were in. The music was unobtrusive and the camera work felt more like a documentary than a film.

But overall I was left with a feeling of joy that there are still films that try to say something, that aren't based on comic books, and that have real concerns that people struggle with. Bravo to Ken Loach and co.
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Gritty, realistic, excellent
slake0910 February 2005
Every romance film should be this way; the lovers bickering, throwing each other out of the apartment, taking shots at each other's families and generally not getting along in between periods of being so intensely in love that they forget everything but each other.

Sadly, most romance movies aren't like this at all.

Ae Fond Kiss, or Just a Kiss, is a gritty account of two blue-collar workers in love, one a Scottish girl and the other a product of an immigrant Pakistani family, all taking place in the not so glamorous city of Glasgow during the late 20th century. The Scottish girl is a music teacher at a Catholic school and meets the Pakistani boy when her guitar is broken during a racial incident. So far it follows much of the standard boy-meets-girl line. The romance takes off, they find they are getting along swell, and then the price comes due.

You can see it coming, the Muslim Pakistani family coming down on the boy for not going along with his arranged marriage, and him going on the outs with his family. But then the price comes due for his Scottish girlfriend, too, and that was a little harder to call. It comes down to both of them having to pay a price for their love, and the various tests of their willingness to do so. Even at the end, it was a bit uncertain, as such a romance would probably be. You can almost see them trying to decide if this is worth the trouble they are going through, or just a lust thing they will eventually get over.

The characters are likable, even when you don't agree with them. The father who doesn't want his son going out with a Catholic girl is not only likable, you can even see his point of view and the quandary he is in. The story line is believable, especially today, and the sub plots were intriguing.

I'm not normally much for romance films, unless there are a lot of naked chicks wobbling around, or the popcorn is really good, but I liked this movie quite a bit. Something in it appeals to even a die hard chick flick hater like me. It would make an excellent date movie, giving you something to discuss while providing that all important element of romance that leads to your hand sliding off the gear shift and squeezing her thigh while you make some pseudo-intellectual point about one of the various issues in the film.

There is no feel-good Hollywood ending here, it just sort of fades out, leaving you wondering what would happen with such a couple. Did they stay together? Did the boy reconcile with his family? But you don't feel cheated out of an ending, rather you are forced to confront how you, the viewer, would deal with the same or similar issues.
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A truly British movie
hiphop_huw26 October 2004
"Ae Fond Kiss" embodies all and more that we are used to from director,Ken Loach. The film is entertaining and moving from start to finish and makes interesting and true social comment about the way we live. Loach approaches the subjects of religion, race, national identity and cultural differences in a way that is sensitive, gritty and real to the audience. "Ae Fond Kiss" does not shy away from the truth and attempts to deal with issues in a far more serious and believable way than such films as "Bend it Like Beckham". An enjoyable film, and one which should gain huge attention and recognition from the U.S. However, we shouldn't hold our breath as we know.
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Another tick in the box for Ken Loach
stevepiercy23 August 2004
I saw this at the Edinburgh Film Festival last night. I'm not a natural fan of Loach's work, although grew a little warmer to it after Sweet Sixteen.

What he's made here though is a believable, warming love-story. Aside from 'location-spotting' the Glasgow geography, there was a feeling throughout the film that's difficult to pin down (or articulate!); just a kind of "yeah, that's right, these people and these feelings are real".

Lead-wise, a great line up, Atta Yaqub plays a quiet Casim, and Eva Birthistle a brilliant but natural Roisin - there's nothing that stops you believing that this is a couple in love.

As for the rest of them - some excellent characters and some good acting. One criticism is Loach's practice of using non-actors - sometimes this leads to an almost TOO natural delivery of the script. The strength of the whole cast comes through though, and there's certainly no feeling of any tokenism or stereotype characters.

One actor who doesn't appear to have had much notice in any write-ups I've seen is Shabana Bakhsh, who plays Tahara Khan, Casim's youngest sister. She's fantastic. Again, falls a little foul of sometimes sounding overly natural... but what a star though. She was very believable as the rebellious, starting to get politically active, younger sister.

All-in-all, a great film, worth seeing. I think it's out on general release sometime in the early autumn - well worth the ticket.
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Masterpiece of social realism
willyboy197311 May 2004
I saw Loach's new work at the Berlin festival and was stunned. Usually, I'm not very much into his films as he gets a little to preachy for me at times. Still, I respect him for taking up subject matters other directors avoid nowadays - most of all British working class stories. "Ae fond kiss" to me is his masterpiece. It's the first film I've seen that really brings across all the complexities of intercultural relationships. It resists the temptation to judge or mock the conservative islamic family while making clear that its sympathies are with the bicultural couple. It doesn't give any easy answers but shows that sometimes you can only choose between bad and worse - but choose you must if you still want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. A friend of mine is Afghan, and the film reminded me a lot of the problems she is going through, balancing between family tradition and Western culture. So if you're interested in a deep, aching but also hopeful look into the intercultural reality of our European societies, go and see "Ae fond kiss". Its Berlin awards are well deserved.
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Loach style.
yusufpiskin13 March 2020

Fashion, innovation, love - general hubs of Where You Want To Be, according to latest reports and Topshop t-shirts. Life happens in these centres of gravity, all other life is just trying to get there.

Locations are supporting characters, these cities all well-established as romantic hotbeds of young adults meeting, fighting, reconciling. Any new players need to be justified. Glasgow can't just join the party, it needs a reason.

It bummed me out. At first, Casim and Roisin are two normal people from different communities falling in love. In a city with a troubled history of sectarianism, no less. I loved that. It was the opposite of excess and loud and narcissism. It was normal.

Then Ken Loach Ken Loaches it all up, indiscriminately at least. Spiritual communities are oppressive and dictate behaviour - sure, Ae Fond Kiss... is a Scottish Romeo + Juliet. Catholicism is shown to be no less poisonous than the arranged marriages of Casim's faith, invasive and judgemental. The film's latter half is mostly 'but my family, but my partner, but my family, but my partner...'

Which is likely something many people go through. But for a film set in a city known for its division, Glasgow becomes less romantic and more the problem itself. It suggests a place where many communities live separately, apart, the opposite of a love story. Fighting the stacked odds is actually tiring, there's no euphoria when each decision leads to loss.

Maybe it's my own fault. I'm waiting for Scotland's Before trilogy. I'm waiting for Scotland's representation to be more Sunshine on Leith and less Trainspotting. Ae Fond Kiss... is fine, adult, even, at times. But it doesn't half batter you over the head with 'religion is bad' after beginning with a cozy, believable, normal romance.

Cruel to judge a film on what it could have been and not what it is. But it gave me hope then took it away.
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stensson18 December 2004
That word is of course relative. What is racism? Where goes the border between being incorporated in your culture and looking down on others? The question is relevant also for Muslims in Scotland.

Ken Loach is a passionate director watching everyday-life in a passionate way. You always get engaged in his people. You come to know them and feel for them.

In this film the catholic girl is the most abused part and the Muslim boy the one who has to struggle most against prejudice. The end is predictable, but the travel towards it exciting. The good powers win.

Ken Loach dares to criticize and understand at the same time.
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Promising opening but disappointing overall
kmd2uk200128 August 2004
I really didn't like this film. I usually don't feel this strongly about films but I found it very difficult to sit all the way through this one.

I found the acting pretty 'rough around the edges', which was charming at first and gave the film a real-life quality, but became very noted, particularly with regard to the male lead. I found the plot badly structured (how many times did they fall out and then get back together?) I didn't think that there was any chemistry between the two leads at all and the script didn't allow for any development of their relationship. I found it difficult to work out why they were actually together, other than mutual sexual attraction. I could go on....

I thought that the film started extremely well - thoughtful, but with a lighthearted touch. Unfortunately it just didn't even come close to living up to the promising opening.
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Too simple, too facile
dlg3216 December 2005
The complexity of cultural conflict, racial tension, the difficulty of one generation breaking free from the restrictive traditions of the previous generation - all of these are good subjects for film (or stage or literature). Think Romeo and Juliet, for example. The conflicts in "Ae Fond Kiss" (the title comes from a Robert Burns song) - racial, cultural, generational, religious - all demand serious attention and reflection. This film doesn't achieve that attention or reflection. The story of love (or desire) trivializes the broader issues. Photographed effectively, even at times beautifully, especially the cityscape of Glasgow, the film nevertheless is poorly edited (disjointed scenes) and unevenly paced. Eva Birthistle manages to appear both lovely and prickly; Atta Yaqub manages to both attract and repel. The script is too facile. An overall disappointment. And, it can't be said too often, people should keep their clothes on; sexual desire and tension can be presented much more effectively through nuance and gesture. (See Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love.")
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As bad as predictable
tunatomatoe14 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm very tolerant with romantic films, both comedy or drama. I can love a simple film like "The Matchmaker", even when the script is transparent. But 'Ae Fond Kiss' (love the title, though, that attracted me in the first place!) film is not only predictable, it's irritating and you expect more from Ken Loach than an unbelievable love story with extensive love scenes that have nothing to do with the story. Leave them completely out, and it won't change the story! I really couldn't believe that those scenes just went on and on. You could hear people sigh in the cinema.

It was also very unbelievable that the girl didn't had enough of it at a certain time. Once you can forgive, but twice, then you really have done it. The guy is a weakling, and although that is emphasized at some stages, in my opinion he was just not on the same level as the girl. This guy gets away with being a prick, by just looking good. He is a boy, she is a woman.

In short: an unbelievable love story with drained love scenes which disappointed me greatly.
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The worst Ken Loach movie I saw
javillol24 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I am a big fan of Ken Loach. Huge fan. That's why I disliked this movie so much. It has nothing of his touch.

The story is absolutely predictable (God! I even knew that he was not going to be able to get in the house after their first fight) and there is nothing new. It's a story we already saw many times, with an obvious script, fair performances and just OK story telling. It never moves you, it never shocks you, it never really does anything to you.

There is a Turkish/German movie that was shown during the Berlin Festival I think it is called "Against the wall" or something similar. Now, there is a movie! In Ae Fond Kiss there is no roar material like in "Sweet sixteen", the great performances of "Secrets and lies", not even the humor of "Riff Raff". There is a lot of plain nothing.

And the first scene! Please! Let's not make more political speeches to open a movie. Let's make political statements! Lots of them! But not in the form of pamphlets. Remember Land and Freedom? It's hard to believe that we are talking about the same director here...
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Loach Disappoints
Rainsford525 May 2005
I guess it had to happen, but Ken Loach has disappointed me with this one. I gave it 5 out of 10, due only to the good acting of the majority of it's cast.

It doesn't seem to be able to make up it's mind whether or not it's meant to be funny or serious and it certainly doesn't delve into a major issue with the intense passion that is strikingly apparent in Loach's other films (e.g. Ladybird 10/10) and the conflict created by multi-racial relationships is dealt with far better in "Bend It Like Beckham". The love scene is unnecessary and very unLoach like - in fact, its inclusion plus the cutting away too soon from the conflict between the two lovers gives the film it's superficial feel.

My other favorite directors (Mike Leigh, Polanski, Von Trier) have disappointed me as well so it's proves that even the genius of the world can make errors, so I'm still a major fan of Mr Loach but have to say, looking forward to something much better next time.
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there are better movies of this kind
nefar21 March 2005
Having watched several movies of this type before I found nothing in particular that this movie had to add that I haven't seen in other movies earlier. Their concept of time is very loose, and sometimes the viewer has no idea how much time has passed. Character development isn't anything to cheer for, and I'm not even sure I think the story makes sense. I would recommend anyone to view 'Bend it like Beckham' instead as it's much more rewarding. Another annoying thing I found about the movie is that the sex-scenes don't really bring anything to the movie. They seem irrelevant and are there purely for the sex itself. It's not like we feel they bond more.
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Excellent remake of Romeo and Juliet, and yet...
Dr_Coulardeau15 August 2004
This film is maybe essential to understand our modern global problem. Some may say it is a new Romeo and Juliet. They are right. Two people from absolutely different backgrounds fall in love and it is the story of their love. In two words : white vs moslem, two worlds in contact that have been tainted by centuries of rejection and racism essentially coming from the whites. But Ken Loach studies the confrontation and conflict in order to show that both sides are characterized by rejection and impossible integration in the full respect of each side's traditions and cultures. Ken Loach, to push his point as far as he can, takes the Catholic side of the white planet. He shows the terrible sectarianism of a Catholic priest, disapproved by some, but accepted by others who do not want to denounce it. The woman is the victim of this sectarianism because of her unmarried living with a moslem. On the moslem side it is less religious and more dominated by family pride and tradition that makes marriage what it has been since the very beginning of humanity : an alliance between two families, a building of the strength, power and social position of these families. So a moslem marrying a catholic is unacceptable because it goes against other family choices, against the authority of the family over their children, and because it does not bring, from this point of view, any advantage to the family. In other words, what emerges in humanity, and has been clearly emerging for maybe fifty years, is the fact that family rule is on the wane and the future of any individual is in his or her own hands and choices. This then is the come-back of an old human rule, i.e. that marriage is necessarily an outside alliance that rejects inbreeding, a very dangerous practice for the human species, and that looks for new openings for each family concerned, new openings in the social field, in the cultural domain, in any materialistic, symbolical, cultural and spiritual perspective. The growth of humanity can only come from cross-cultural (in a very wide meaning) alliances. But the film is uneven because the trauma for the catholic woman is nothing but the loss of a job, in fact a transfer from a catholic school to a non-denominational school, which is traumatic in a way, but not that dramatic. The trauma for the moslem man is that it destroys the dream of his father, of his mother, the possible marriage of his elder sister, and this « treason » is seen as a loss of faith, of spirituality, a deculturalization of the whole community that feels as if they were regressing in a way because their lose their homogeneity. At this level the film becomes an allegory speaking of the modern world. If globalization is to go through – and how could it not ? – it will have to move towards an association of various faiths, beliefs and convictions into the building of a cross-referential and cross-denominational philosophy that will definitely takes from everyone and build something new by transcending differences into common ideas, objectives and intellectual or spiritual perspectives and developments. Such a world frightens people and makes the whites racist and it makes the moslems close themselves up onto and into their community. A great film indeed, though probably less tragic than real life might have been. Glasgow is not Verona, but life is too often a lot more tragic than Shakespeare's plays or Ken Loach's films.

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interesting film about different cultural mentalities
meitschi22 January 2005
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.
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Very honest and insightful film
howard.schumann21 March 2005
Roisin Hanlon (Eva Birthisle) is a spunky young Irish woman who teaches music at a Glasgow Catholic school. She is still married but no longer lives with her husband, a situation that will later affect her tenure at the school. After a fracas at school in which a young Muslim girl is being chased by bullies, she meets and begins a relationship with Casim Khan (Atta Yaqub), a Pakistani disc jockey in Glasgow clubs who plans to open his own club. Ae Fond Kiss is the third in the Glasgow series by director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Lavery (My Name is Joe, Sweet Sixteen). It is much lighter in tone than his previous films and avoids scenes of poverty, drugs, and urban decay, characteristic of many of his other films. Though Ae Fond Kiss is basically a romantic drama, it has a great deal to say about issues of class, race, and religion and does so in a very forthright manner.

Casim, a second-generation Pakistani, is very close to his parents, Tariq and Sadia (Ahmad Riaz and Shamshad Akhtar) and his two sisters, Rukhsana (Ghizala Avan) and Tahara (Shabana Bakhsh). Rukhsana is expected to marry Amar, a scientist from a prominent family in an arranged marriage, while Tahara rebels against her parents wishes for her to become a doctor and plans on studying Journalism at the University of Edinburgh. His relationship with Roisin is opposed by his family who has arranged a marriage between him and a Pakistani girl and have built an extension to the family home for them to live in.

The relationship between Roisin and Casim becomes more intense when they travel to Spain for a short vacation. Near the end of the trip, however, he tells her that he is engaged to marry in nine weeks, a marriage arranged by his family that cannot be canceled. Roisin feels betrayed by Casim's revelation and seems unable to understand how torn Casim is between his devotion to his parents and his growing love for her. Newcomer Birthisle does an excellent job in portraying a tough-minded independent woman who is willing to stand up to social pressure and be true to her deepest feelings. "It will break their hearts, destroy them," Casim says talking about having her meet his Muslim family. 'What about your heart, and my heart?' Roisin replies.

Casim tells her that he has personally seen the racism directed towards his family and believes that adherence to his culture's values is the community's best hope for survival. Nonetheless, he tells his mother to cancel the arranged wedding and decides to move in with Roisin even though he knows the ramifications it will have in the community. Things start to get tough for Roisin as well. She learns that she is in line for a full time position at the school if she can gain the approval of her parish priest (Gerard Kelly) but he has other thoughts. In a scene that will make you duck to avoid the flying sparks, he berates Roisin for 'living in sin" with a non-Catholic while still married and refuses to give his approval unless she leaves Casim.

To complicate matters further, Casim's sister Rukhsana visits Roisin and also asks her to leave him. Roisin, however, tells her that she loves her brother and Rukhsana replies, "I know but for how long? I do not know how typical Casim's family's reaction is to his relationship with a "goree" (white girl) but Loach shows them without any willingness to give an inch. One wishes that there was a solution that would make both parties happy but such is not the case. The parents will not acknowledge that their children are living in a different world or encourage them to make their own choices. On the other hand, Roisin can only see the problem in terms of her own needs and desires. Ae Fond Kiss may not be Loach's best work but it is very real and involving and one of the few that ends on an optimistic note. Though the story of star-crossed lovers has been told before, it has rarely been related with as much honesty, insight, and beauty.
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In Scotland, a Muslim Romeo meets his blonde, Catholic Juliet, with severe consequences
inkblot111 November 2006
Casim is the son of Pakistani immigrants in Glasgow. His life appears to be mapped out, as he is engaged and will marry the woman of his parents' arrangements. That is, until he meets Roisin. She is a gifted music teacher at the Catholic school his younger sister attends. Smitten from the first moments, it is Casim who offers his help in moving a grand piano from the home of her ex and into her new apartment. As he listens down below, she plays the piano beautifully. Whistling, he invites her to look down from her balcony (can we say R & J?) and promptly asks her for a date. It is a short trip into a romance. The two even sneak out on a holiday together in Spain. It is there Roisin learns the truth about Casim's future. She breaks it off. But, can they stay apart from one another? And, what will it mean to Casim and his family if he were to continue the romance? This is a touching story of two star crossed lovers indeed. To be in a romance with a non-Muslim is to be booted out of the family and to bring shame on all of the family members. Catholism, too, frowns on out of wedlock relationships. Yet, Casim and Roisin are drawn to each other. All of the actors are quite adequate and the setting is a glimpse at another world. However, there is a plethora of bad language in the script and the two principals never say the things they need to in order to make this a fairy tale romance. Therefore, all who love romantic dramas, beware. These are real people with plenty of foibles and the film has a gritty edge to it that takes the viewer far away from such films as Just Like Heaven. That said, it is still a lovely story about individuals who risk everything for those they love. There will always be an audience for tales of irresistible and clandestine romance.
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Romeo and Juliette in Glasgow
Red-12512 July 2020
A Fond Kiss (2004) is a Scottish movie directed by Ken Loach.

Atta Yaqub portrays Casim Khan, a young DJ who plans to open his own night club. Eva Birthistle plays Roisin Hanlon, a music teacher at a Catholic school.

The problem is that Casim is Muslim, and Roisin is Catholic. She's on her own, but he is part of an extended Pakistani-Scottish family and community.

I could believe in the chemistry between these two attractive people. The forces that drive them apart are realistic as well.

I was impressed that Roisin was the stronger of the two. She found the man she wanted, and she's determined to keep him.

Loach veers away from his usual spotlight on working people. Both Casim and Roisin are educated, talented, and verbal. (There are "rude mechanicals" in the movie, but mostly they provide comic relief.)

This movie is charming and pleasant enough for me to recommend it. It isn't a must-see film. It's a good movie, and worth seeing for what it is--boy meets girl, and then things happen. The film has a respectable IMDb rating of 7.2. I thought it was somewhat better than that, and rated it 8.
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Fond enough and effective enough low-key look at struggling characters trying to find a way to connect with one another, amidst hardship and antagonism.
johnnyboyz18 May 2010
When the two leads first meet in Ken Loach's A Fond Kiss, it's out of a negative item in the form of some racial harassment of a young man's younger sister; someone he was picking up from school. After having chased her, who in turn is chasing the bullies back into the school grounds and then through the corridors, he stumbles across a certain young woman who's a teacher there. Tahara (Akhtar Bakhsh) was the younger sister, her angered reaction displaying strong and positive traits for a young girl, anything but the expected passive reaction of a teenage girl living amidst those of a ethnicity different to hers. The rest of the film will dedicate itself to the relationship of this young man and woman, the sequence setting up an overall tone or outlook on events played out within, an observing of a good thing being born out of a terrible thing; a systematic realising of the good and the bad that plagues life, as later on certain events and revelations will arise that'll have the ability to both tear and sway entire families onto plateaus of bad, seemingly without much in the way of a positive outlook.

The leads are British born of Pakistani descent Casim (Yaqub) and Irishwoman Roisin (Birthistle); two people based in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Their coming together is born out of a hate filled and chaotic event, their relationship is built on tranquillity and mutual love but in being together, they'll spawn further events of a chaotic nature. They are two people who connect principally through their fondness for items of a musical nature, Casim being a disc jockey who works through the nights at a local club, selecting tunes and mixing them up to the resounding visual chorus of many-a young dancers, while Roisin is a music teacher at the aforementioned school, spreading teachings and learnings on the subject as her piano playing enforces a physical skill in working within this similar field as Casim. The idea is fairly clearcut, in that tone of skin is irrelevant as is racial background and ethnicity and that if two people can connect with one another, then that is a beautiful thing.

The film is certainly more lower-key Loach than one might expect, A Fond Kiss taking a step forward and mingling with two people of different racial ethnicities as struggles and items that exist to block their fondness for one another arise within the respective camps: an organised marriage Casim wants nothing to do with and issues the Catholic Church has with him in challenging Roisin to break off the affair for the good of her career. In light of recent but consistent, unfortunate arisings to do with the Catholic Church that date back however far, no doubt few will begrudge them the role of the unsympathetic, 'out to destroy' and just down right nasty force they're rendered here. The film is of a relatively routine nature by Locah's standards, running on a Romeo and Juliet infused premise as life in the shoes of each of these respective people whose issues, aspirations and families clash with both a British based culture and and their own. For Roisin, her life and aspirations are threatened by way of issues within the field of her career as Casim's first generation and consequently strictly traditional parents threaten to destroy what Casim wants in terms of a partner.

It'd be fair to say the affair takes its toll on the two, with Casim's business deal that'll enable him to build his own nightclub (one that runs on an expansive sense of equality) and an arranged marriage Roisin will have to learn of sooner of later hovering around above all of this and acting as a consistent off screen threat; their relationship hitting a major buffer the one time they're out of the nation and therefore further away from problems linked to job, family and so forth during a half term holiday in Spain. Spain is a radiant locale Loach uses to push their relationship away from mere flirtations, rides home and the odd drink with each other and into a more passionate and embracing bond as the bodies of these two are exposed more on the warm, welcoming beaches as the systematic feelings they have for one another becoming equally exposed; all the while under glowing cinematography as the location of Spain glistens in an interesting juxtaposition.

The film proves Loach can construct a love story whilst systematically maintain an eye on how the greater items in each of these persons lives can also affect them. 1991's Riff-Raff saw an effective enough love story play out amidst this seemingly neo-realistic aesthetic of men working on a building site as one of the ring leaders of that troupe spoke about Britain's needs as a nation to be reigned in, rebuilt and so fourth as the dialogue and scenes of that nature fittingly unfolded on a site dedicated to construction - it was just more interesting. The film's story here doesn't carry as much dramatic tension nor visceral involvement in each of these people's problematic lives as later-in-the-decade efforts such as 2006's The Wind That Shakes the Barley did nor the shared, tri-directorial piece entitled 'Tickets' that Loach made with two other directors in 2005; his segment revolving around young British individuals struggling in a foreign territory as the timer ticked down and the train neared its destination as the guard loomed about the place. A Fond Kiss is an admirable effort, engaging and interesting in its own right but I found a hollow space where I wanted to feel for these people and their plights with modern society; respective cultural clashes and then later religion. It's an interesting piece and worth seeing but not one I came away from ecstatic about.
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