Ali & Ava: “Cements Barnard’s status as one of the most important contemporary filmmakers of the British arthouse scene”
Landlord Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is separated from his wife but still lives with her. He doesn’t want anyone to know about their split because part of him hopes she will change her mind and stay with him. Meanwhile, Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a teaching assistant whose husband recently passed away. The two lonesome characters meet when Ali accompanies one of his tenant’s children to school, and they form an instantaneous bond. Their friendship eventually blossoms into a tentative romance – much to the chagrin of Ava’s son Callum (Shaun Thomas).
Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor and The Selfish Giant (which won the Europa Cinema’s award at Cannes Director’s Fortnight in 2013) cements her status as one of the most important contemporary filmmakers of the British arthouse scene. Her latest feature succeeds in ticking all the boxes to make this a soulful social drama without falling back on too many clichés. Instead, the characters are complex. Ali loves children but never had any of his own. Ava is a grandmother, the members of her family almost impossible to keep track of. She is the one from “the wrong side of the tracks”, while Ali comes from a well-to-do background.
This is a very tender story about human connection in spite of racial, class and age differences. The characters are realistically portrayed, with down-to-earth performances. A scene in which the two exchange music players and dance to each other’s favourite songs is particularly memorable in its simplicity and surrender.
The physical aspect of the protagonists’ relationship is leapfrogged over, an element that the director felt it unnecessary to explore. As a result, one is left wondering if this film couldn’t have been equally thriving had it remained a platonic friendship – something that would have further set this feature apart.
At the very least, Ali & Ava will have Sylvan Esso’s Radio stuck in your head for the remainder of your day.
Ali & Ava does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Ali & Ava here: