Ali & Ava (2021)

Ali & Ava
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Cast: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, Mona Goodwin, Krupa Pattani, Vinny Dhillon, Tasha Connor
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Content Note: mention of domestic violence, racism

Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a classroom assistant. Her own children are more or less grown up, though her son Callum (Shaun Thomas) still partly lives with her together with his girlfriend and their baby. Meanwhile Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a property manager and a fixture of his community, repairing stuff and helping out whereever he can, although his private life is in shambles. His wife Runa (Ellora Torchia) broke up with him, but still lives with him and he doesn’t want his family to know that they’re separated. When Ali picks up the child of one of his tenants from school, he meets Ava – and the two connect instantly. But what are they and their families supposed to think about this connection?

Ali & Ava is a cute, emotional and wonderfully energetic film that gives us two characters as rarely seen on film as they are easily rooted for. It left me smiling from ear to ear.

The film poster showing Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) smiling at each other.

There is a lightness to Ali & Ava that is quite suprising as their lives are not particularly easy, and neither is their courtship. Things get pretty messy. “But,” the film seems to say, “that’s just the way things are. Life is messy. And even when it hurts, there’s also warmth and humor and love to be had. Let’s not forget that.” Thus the film can introduce topics like domestic violence and racism and not be swallowed up by them.

Both Ali and Ava are great characters that subvert expectations. In most other movies, they would be cast as tragic, but here they are hopeful and warm and not ready to give up – on themselves, on life, on each other. Akhtar and Rushbrook bring both of them to full life, and it’s wonderful to watch them. It’s easy to love both Ali and Ava and to hope, or rather fervently wish that things work out well for them.

Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) sitting back to back as they both listen to different music on their headphones.

Barnard not only captures those two personalities, she also captures the town they live in and their communities. They both come from very different worlds, but they encounter each other with curiosity and openness and it makes all the difference. The film symbolizes this with the music they share with each other – Ali’s love for electronic music, Ava’s for country – reveling in the way the music doesn’t fit together, instead of making a flawless mash-up of both.

My hopes for the film were high, but the actual film was so much softer and sweeter and so filled with love, it far surpassed my expectations. It’s like a direct infusion of sunshine in the very best way.

Ali (Adeel Akhtar) eith his arm around Ava (Claire Rushbrook) as they walk.

Summarizing: perfect feel good cinema.

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