Ali and Ava (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Clio Barnard, UK, 2021, 94 mins,

Cast: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook

Review by Carol Allen

You don’t get many romantic films set in Bradford and even fewer about middle aged, mixed race couples brought together through their love of pop music. But Bradford is where director Clio Barnard, herself a Northerner, likes to make her films and here she has created a warm and delightful, grown up love story, laced with the music her title characters enjoy.

The versatile and ever busy Adeel Akhtar is Ali, a middle aged British Asian from a well off family. A one time DJ, he now makes his living collecting rents from the tenants, who are renting his family’s properties. Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a recently widowed grandmother, who works as a teaching assistant and they meet when the good hearted Ali goes to pick up the small daughter of one of his tenants from the school where Ava works. Through their shared affection for the child and their aforesaid love of music a relationship starts to grow, which evolves into a comfortable love affair.

There are though obstacles. Ali is married. He and his wife Runa (Ellora Torchia) have grown apart and are leading separate lives but he cannot confess this shame to his family, so the couple are still sharing a house. Ava’s adult children cannot conceive of their mother having a love life after the death of their father and she hasn’t yet brought herself to tell them that the man they adored was in fact an abusive bully, who made her life miserable.

Their story unfolds against the sometimes harsh reality of working class Bradford and the two leads play their characters as both endearing and charming but also firmly rooted in real life.

There are no obvious political axes grinding away in the background. Just fully rounded characters from different cultures living out their lives. A delightful and ultimately thought provoking film.