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Ae fond kiss before we sever
on 13 May 2005
"Ae fond kiss" is the love story between a Catholic woman and a Muslim man in Glasgow. The title derives, as I assume many will know,from a Robert Burns poem in which the poet laments the loss of his beloved, and the fond kiss is the last kiss before parting.
The love between Roisin and Casim is impossible, because his family expects him to marry his Pakistani cousin. Marrying Roisin is out of the question, and the prospect of it risks to sever Casim from his family forever. Casim is torn between his love for Roisin and love for his family.
The handling of the conflict is very skilful, realistic and far from sentimental. We see both the heartbreak of Casim's family and that of the young couple, and we understand both. The scene where the disappointed father breaks the windows of the house extension he had built for his son and future daughter in law is tremendous and realistically portrayed. We are torn between our understanding of the father's feelings and the greater sympathy that the film creates for the young couple. Ultimately, we cannot bear the overt manipulation of Casim by his family and we want Casim to be with Roisin throughout.
As foils for the young couple, we encounter Hammid, Casim's friend, who has been living with his Christian girlfriend for seven years, but finds marrying her impossible, and who tells Casim that his family is more important than some woman; his younger sister Tahara, who defies her parents and who tells Casim he is a hypocrite; and his sister Rukhsana who does all the right and appropriate things. Ultimately, Casim must choose between giving in to his family's wishes and being with Roisin.
The film is about the dilemma of the second generation, torn between two identities, and how this affects both them and others who choose to be with them. It is beautifully acted, and beautifully filmed in Glasgow. Eva Birthistle is excellent in portraying the gentle, vulnerable, delicate, and at the same time, strong willed Roisin, and the young Shabana Baksh is wonderful as Casim's self-assertive, honest, straightforward, sister. They are both very likeable, as well as the driving forces behind the movie plot.
This is a beautiful, realistic, and ultimately optimistic movie, with nothing overdone or overly dramatic about it, with characters and a plot you cannot remain indifferent to. I have seen it twice already, and I liked it even better upon a second viewing, as I appreciated better the family's manipulative ways, Roisin's vulnerability and her determination, Tahara's strong will and Casim's indecisiveness. This is one of the best Ken Loach films, and makes a wonderful addition to a DVD collection. Do buy it!