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  • Gareth Crook

Ali & Ava (2021) - 7/10

This is the sort of British cinema that used to be called gritty kitchen sink drama, before it just became… drama. Either way this is a rather good one. Set in Yorkshire with a cast of relatable characters, telling a recognisable story, it’s easy to watch, whilst being uneasy. Even if this world doesn’t represent your life, I’m sure everyone can find something in what’s a pretty layered narrative. Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) meet when people in their social spheres merge. He’s the landlord for a family with a young girl called Sofia and Ava is Sofia’s teacher or the assistant teacher that helps Sofia with learning difficulties. That might seem like an unlikely catalyst, but Ali and Ava are both people who go out of their way to help people. Ali in particular is able to break down boundaries with his out going child like excitable nature. Some boundaries run deep though. Ali has problems at home that he’s trying to deny and as he and Ava grow closer, he’s faced with issues in Ava’s world too. Akhtar is brilliant, he always is. I’ve seen him more in TV, but here as a lead in a feature, with more screen time, he flourishes. Ali and Ava are from different cultures, different parts of town and although they warm to one another, those around them aren’t so keen. It’s pretty depressing truth be told, but life can be. It’s hard work sometimes and no matter what you do, happiness can be hard to find and harder to hold on to, but hang in there. There’s no big set pieces here, no flashy cinematic tricks. This is simple, raw and honest filmmaking. A thought provoking window into lives that may tell us more about ourselves than we realise.



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