Ali & Ava
The fourth feature by Clio Barnard is set in her favourite location, Bradford, West Yorkshire, like The Arbor and The Selfish Giant (it’s her home town). It’s inspired by two people she met while making those films, though the story is fiction. Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a music nut, and undoubtedly the most sympathetic landlord you will meet in a movie this year. He’s also reeling after his marriage has hit the rocks. Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a teacher, a widow, and a grandmother. These are two warm, generous individuals and they take an instant liking to each other. But cultural forces – and family – ensure their relationship will be tested.
British realism often equates with miserabilism, but that’s absolutely not the case here. The film is full of joy and hope in the face of adversity and prejudice. That’s largely down to the exuberance of Adeel Akhtar and the sensitivity of Claire Rushbrook… these are people you would love to have in your own life. It’s also about the filmmaking… at times Barnard seems on the point of making a fully-fledged musical (Ali’s into the Buzzcocks and Sylvan Esso, Ava prefers Karen Dalton and Bob Dylan… just another example of how they’re an interesting mash-up.)
A pair of wonderfully winning performances from Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar lie at the heart of this unexpectedly warm and typically compelling drama from British writer-director Clio Barnard.
Mark Kermode, Observer
Irresistible… crammed with humour… the soundtrack is a source of joy… Music and movement are everywhere.
Charlotte O’Sullivan, Evening Standard
With Ali & Ava, Barnard triumphs in presenting a romance tale that is deeply grounded, yet in its well-matched leads and heartfelt story, still possesses the magic required to sweep the audience off its feet.
Cheyenne Bunsie, Little White Lies
Claudia Yusef, Lizzie Francke
Ole Bratt Birkeland