Ali & Ava

classified 15

Please note: This was screened in March 2022

Clio Barnard
Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia
94 mins, 2021, UK
Primary language

The Arbor director Clio Barnard’s wonderful 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, one they have to try to keep from being overshadowed by the stresses and struggles of their separate lives and histories.

Enveloped in music (Barnard has half-jokingly described the film as a "social-realist musical"), humour and emotion, this is 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 feels like a small miracle - one you are bound to fall in love with.