Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ae Fond Kiss (2004) Film Review
Ae Fond Kiss
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
"Ae fond kiss, and then we sever
"Ae fareweel, alas, for ever..."
The opening lines of the famous poem by Robert Burns set the tone for this story of a young Muslim man and a young Catholic woman attempting to forge and maintain a relationship in modern Glasgow. Essentially a slight story which we've all encountered before, its strength is in the way it deals not with prejudice but with expectation - the assumption that such a relationship can only survive for so long, and the pressures this puts on all involved.
Unfortunately, though all the performances are strong, there's simply not enough chemistry between the leads to make their struggle believable. The script wisely eschews speech-making and direct declarations of love, but fails to provide enough other material to show us why these two people care about each other so much. Endless footage demonstrating their sexual connection doesn't quite cut it, and merely becomes irritating.
It's difficult to assess a new Ken Loach film without comparing it to Sweet Sixteen, and it really would be unfair to expect anyone to produce work of that calibre every time. Loach has insisted that this doesn't mark the final part of a Glasgow trilogy (also including My Name is Joe), noting that he sees them as very different, individual stories; yet he has clearly become steeped in Glaswegian culture, because it's the day to day scenes of shopkeepers, workmen and schoolchildren which give this film its solidity, its believability, and much-needed humour.
As ever, the teenagers' performances and the director's awareness of how teenagers behave are spot on. Some of the family scenes in what was always intended as an ensemble piece are similarly affecting, but, in that regard, it's hard not to feel that East Is East told the story better, with a more finely balanced approach to the concerns of pro-Western and traditionalist characters.
Ahmad Riaz's performance here as the hero's father is comic enough to attract some audience sympathy and affection, yet lacks the strength to persuade us that this man's beliefs are powerful enough to present a real challenge to his willful son. It should not be necessary for us to be told about his tragic experiences during the Partition of India - this is background, yes, and the kind of detail Loach is good at, but it comes across as a substitute for showing us a rounded character. Without a strong enough sense of the concerns of the family, our sympathies remain firmly with the central couple, which restricts the potential of the story.
As the hero, Casim, newcomer Atta Yaqub is likeable and engaging, handling his character's weaknesses well. Eva Birthistle works hard as heroine Roisin; it's just unfortunate that they don't work together. Bizarrely, it's has-been television actor and pantomime star Gerard Kelly who delivers the most charismatic performance in his single scene as a priest, and one can't help but imagine what this film might have been like had it maintained that kind of energy. The dithering and awkwardness and uncertainty in its characters' lives is admirably realistic but does not represent a compelling narrative. Ae Fond Kiss has some excellent moments, but ultimately has nothing in particular to say.Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2007