Ali & Ava
Clio Barnard charts a romance between a couple in Bradford through music and in spite of the prejudice of the people around them.
Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a likeable landlord whose marriage to Runa (Ellora Torchia) is nearing its amicable end. He meets Ava (Claire Rushbrook), a classroom assistant, while picking up one of his tenant’s daughters from the local primary school. They soon find common ground in a love of music, albeit very different styles. As the friendship develops into something more, friends and family members reveal their prejudices, none more so than Ava’s son, who resents the possibility of her mother being in a relationship with an Asian man.
Barnard knows this area of the world well, having previously shot The Arbor and The Selfish Giant there. But it’s in the depth of her compassion for these characters that Ali & Ava draws its power; not through any grandstanding moments of romance or tension, but in the incremental details that make this potential couple all too credible. And the music – from ballads to bangers – drives the film forward, investing it with dramatic heft and allowing both Ali and Ava to feel fully alive.