Ali & Ava is a very sincere romantic drama with friendly leads and a script to match their chemistry.
The titular characters meet at a primary school when a landlord, Ali (Adeel Akhtar), drops his tenant’s daughter off for the day and meets a teacher’s assistant, Ava (Claire Rushbrook). The brief exchanges between the adults turn into hangouts, which turn into overnight visits as the two begin to fall for each other, despite receiving some judgemental opinions (sometimes from themselves) on their cultural differences, age, and their past relationships. Ava is a widow trying to keep track of her older children, Ali is trying to keep up appearances while facing his own separation from his former wife Runa (Ellora Torchia). Ali and Ava confide in each other, bringing them closer together.
While the movie feels like it meets its resolution before arriving at the end of the movie, and the acknowledgments of personal differences are sometimes too on the nose (the leads listening to their own music together while using separate headsets and devices, but having a good time nonetheless), Ali & Ava is a sweet film with a genuine core from where it can find honest humour and soul in the simplest human connections.
The film’s been written and directed by Clio Barnard, who made the masterful drama The Selfish Giant. While both films stand on their own, I feel Barnard was challenged more by The Selfish Giant. The former film had to build a convincing backstory and genuine empathy for an enigmatic child, while her latest movie is already working with characters with plenty of history to dig into. Nonetheless, while it may be an easier endeavour for Barnard, it’s just as easy of a recommendation for audiences looking for a more mature movie this season.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie