Ae Fond Kiss ...

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am

Ae Fond Kiss ...

Starring: Eva Birthistle,

Atta Yaqub

Director: Ken Loach

The film: Perhaps the most accessible film Ken Loach has made in recent years,

Ae Fond Kiss ... presents a Romeo-and-Juliet narrative set in the multicultural milieu of modern-day Glasgow. The ill-fated lovebirds are Casim (Atta Yaqub), a young man of Pakistani ancestry whose joie de vivre - a hip DJ whose goal is to have his own club - is tempered by the expectations of his ever-traditional parents, and Roisin (a powerful turn by Eva Birthistle, right), a young Irish music teacher intent on carving out an existence away from the constraints of her Catholic background.

It's a rocky romance: Casim, well-enmeshed in the more liberating conventions of western society, is ultimately submissive to the demands of his chauvinistic father Tariq (Ahmad Riaz) - who sees Roisin, who he refused to meet, as a 'cheap goree' breaking up his family. Roisin is running into walls too: her relationship with Casim irks her bigoted, chain-smoking parish priest, who threatens to derail her career if she refuses to sever links with a non-Catholic.

Compared with Loach's previous output - the gritty depiction of school life in Kes, the furious tirade against capitalist exploitation in Riff-Raff, or Sweet Sixteen's portrayal of how young lives are wasted in dead-end towns - Ae Fond Kiss ... reveals an optimism rare in Loach's view of a world torn apart by social judgement.

It also radiates a humanity sometimes frustratingly absent from Loach productions. Human emotion is no longer simply an after-thought - Ae Fond Kiss ... also contains the most explicit sex scenes ever shot by Loach.

There are no more questions such as that of his documentary about the miners' strike (Whose Side Are You On?). Instead we see an unravelling of discourses, with Casim explaining how his father's views are rooted in the painful experiences of the Great Partition and the violent racism he's encountered throughout his life in Britain.

With Britain searching its multicultural soul after the recent London bombings, Ae Fond Kiss... - which was made before the terrorist attacks - provides a primer on the racial faultlines that still hold sway in communities across the country. While the issues at hand are largely unfurled by Casim and Roisin, the definitive moment is at the start of the film in a powerful speech by Casim's feisty sister, Tahara. In a school debate about cultural identities, she refuses classification and proclaims herself as a 'Glaswegian, Pakistani teenager supporting [the traditionally Protestant] Rangers in a Catholic school'. Just like the film itself, it's a potent indictment of the narrow-minded view of race

and culture.

The extras: There's a 'making-of' featurette and an interview at the Edinburgh Film Festival providing background to the film. The deleted scenes paint more detail (such as the discovery of an ageing, fading photograph of Tariq with a young, blonde woman).

An interesting addition for a Loach film is the 'bloopers' reel.

The verdict: A thoughtful, well-acted film that mixes human warmth and a piercing scrutiny of racial politics. This is Loach back on form.