Director Clio Barnard’s latest film charts an unlikely romance between two Bradford residents.
Ali (Adeel Akhtar), an exuberant music enthusiast and landlord, is struggling to keep his recent separation from his wife a secret from his family. Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a pragmatic middle-aged teaching assistant and matriarch to a large and close-knit family, whose latest grandchild has just been born. When a chance encounter unites them, Ali and Ava begin a tentative friendship formed around their shared love of music that quickly blossoms into an unexpected romance.
Deftly weaving together conventions of social realism and romantic drama, Barnard presents an intelligent and nuanced depiction of 21st century Britain that addresses, amongst other issues, neurodiversity, race and class dynamics, and mental health. Bolstered by Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar’s authentic performances, Ali & Ava is a small miracle. Barnard’s empathetic direction makes these everyday characters – who could be our neighbours or family friends – feel extraordinary.