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"I love your brother. Why can't you accept that?",
This review is from: Ae Fond Kiss [DVD] (DVD)
Within the first few seconds of the film we see a panorama of Scottish housing estates with industrial buildings in the background, everyday people going about their everyday business in the street - there's no doubting that this is a Ken Loach film. Ae Fond Kiss is is sometimes seen as being a bit 'diluted' - more gentle than his more edgy titles, and though this no doubt has wider appeal, it's unfair to say that he avoids tackling any sensitive issues...
...One of the first scenes involves schoolgirl Sadia Khan and her input into a classroom debate on terrorism and multiculturalism - it's probably the finest example of cultural diversity ever presented on film. It's a theme which continues, Sadia's father is a very 'traditional' Pakistani family man and has his children's lives mapped out for them. He knows which universities they will attend and who they will marry, or at least he thinks he does. His world is rocked when Sadia announces she wants to attend Edinburgh university, but that's not as big as his son's news; Casim is in love with a white Catholic woman - more than a bit inconvenient considering his arranged marriage to his first cousin. Casim has tough choices to make and each possible decision will have a huge impact on his family.
Ae Fond Kiss is essentially a love story which explores the clash between modern and old fashioned values. Instead of 'taking sides' we get to understand the plights of both viewpoints. The film doesn't demonise Casim's family who are steadfast in their views, which would have been easy to do - instead they are portrayed as a generation who are perhaps losing touch with modern attitudes but still very moral and incredibly well meaning. The only 'side' which is see as abusing its own power to further its own prejudices is the Catholic church. Tradtional Pakistani practices aren't mocked or derided, the ethical core is obvious, but it contrasts with the more modern-western thinking of the younger British-born Pakistani family members who want to be free of patriarchal control. The actual love story at the centre of the film is executed well, a lot of films focus on cheesy romance and overlook the humour that exists between couples. There's an honesty to the intimacy here which makes it even more intimate and not contrived in order to simply service the political elements.
Loach's usual approach of using mainly non-professional actors works brilliantly (as usual) here, although there's not the level of intensity as Crissy Rock in Ladybird, Ladybird, you are always convinced that emotions are high and the realism is never compromised for the sake of a laugh.
In a nutshell: A man has to decide whether he should break his own heart or those of his family in a film which manages to show some of the ways traditional values eat away at modern liberties. It's all done with great respect and a good dose of humour, at times the pace is slow but it's a solid film which has something to say. Those looking for something intense, another Carla's Song, may feel a bit disappointed but Ae Fond Kiss does still successfully show us a world many of us are unfamiliar with and it does it in an audience friendly way.