Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Starring: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, and Mona Goodwin
Ali & Ava is an incredibly moving and honest portrayal of love, that’s filled with deep and realistic characters. It’s a story about love, life, and most importantly music. Practically everything about this film shines brightly from the opening to the final scene. By the time the final credits start to roll, you don’t want it to be over. It’s almost jarring to be taken out of the world the film creates.
Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a landlord who gets on well with his tenants, while trying to forget about his recent break-up. Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a classroom assistant, who’s ex-husband recently died and is bringing up her children and helping with some grandchildren. They both meet when Ali picks up one of his tenant’s children after school and they instantly connect with each other. Their relationship grows as they get to know each other and start to date.
The characters in this film are some of the most well developed to ever grace the screen. Both Ali and Ava are authentic and filled with nuance and details, and they are brought to life by showstopping and stunning performances from Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook. Every line of dialogue feels natural, every subtle movement and glance feels real. It doesn’t take long for you to feel like you know them as real people. The script is beyond strong, with little lines of dialogue here and there building up the characters.
Ali is struggling with his break-up, still living with his ex while she completes her studies. He’s close to the rest of his family, but they don’t know about the break-up, to the point that he’s accused of cheating as he starts to get closer to Ava. He’s a manic and intense character with a loud personality. He doesn’t shy away from what he’s thinking and has no problem sharing it with anyone and everyone. He goes from zero to seventy miles per hour without hesitation jumping headfirst into everything with all he’s got. Ava on the other hand is quieter, living a more reserved life. Her main focus is her children and grandchildren and making sure that they’re happy.
What brings them both together is their love of music. Despite having wildly different tastes, Ali is into punk rock and dance music, while Ava likes country and folk. One of the best moments of the film is where they both listen to their own music through headphones while singing and dancing with each other, while as the viewer we dip in and out of each song, showing the genres blending together while at the same time showing the mixing of cultures.
While the film is filled with sweet and sentimental moments, it doesn’t shy away from dark moments. There are some heart-breaking moments of racism and abuse that make the film feel grounded and real. There’s a gritty tone to everything, with the sets and muted colours. A lot of the scenes are shot close-up, making the world feel smaller and more intimate.
Ali & Ava works on every level and doesn’t miss a beat. It’s sweet, heartfelt, and an almost perfect film and is destined to be one of the best films of the year. A true masterpiece.
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