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:: Ae Fond Kiss...

Named after a line from a Robert Burns poem, Ae Fond Kiss is the third film Paul Laverty has written for director Ken Loach. Burns poem is a farewell to his lover with whom he must relinquish his relationship (because ‘society’ does not approve) and, in the film of the same name, Laverty’s sensitive and explicit script, coupled with Loach’s affectionate direction, charts the course of a problematic relationship between an Irish Catholic school teacher, Roisin (Eva Birthistle) and a Pakistani Muslim DJ, Casim (Atta Yaqub).

Casim (Atta Yaqub) is a second generation Pakistani from Glasgow who works as a DJ in Glasgow’s coolest venues and dreams of buying his own club. His parents Tariq (Ahmad Riaz) and Sadia (Shamshad Aktar) are devout Muslims and plan for him to marry his cousin Jasmine, who is soon to arrive in the UK. Casim meets Roisin, a teacher at his sister Tahara’s (Shabana Bakhsh) school and, discovering that she is different from any girl he has ever met, gorgeous, intelligent and independent, the two rapidly fall in love. But Casim knows all too well that, even if he wasn’t due to marry, his parents would never accept a ‘goree’ (a white girl) into their family. As a Catholic, Roisin finds that her own community isn’t very supportive either. When their relationship is discovered, the repercussions of the scandal reach far and wide and threaten personal and professional relationships.

The film’s main theme is one of identity, especially that of religious and cultural groups and the struggle for each character to live their lives according to their own needs and wants, while being respectful of family and community. The issue of marriage strikes twice in the film with the arranged marriage of Casim and his cousin, and Roisin’s teenage marriage to a man she has since separated from. The arranged marriage of Casim cannot be cancelled without creating a major disaster for the family and Roisin’s marital status threatens her teaching job when the school inspection conducted by the Catholic Church does not approve of her marriage (which exists only on paper).

The filmmakers have gone further with this cross cultural relationship and shown the shame the relationship would bring to Casim’s family. Casim’s sister tries to make Roisin understand the devastating consequences such a relationship would have on the family and Laverty’s script makes this issue palpable for the audience as it is one of the few times in this style of film that we are invited to explore the possible consequences of this relationship on each member of the family. Such is the strength of this that the film doesn’t seek to remedy the protagonist’s dilemma by siding with a modern day perspective on love and relationships.

Ae Fond Kiss contains excellent and believable performances from all concerned. In a simple and real exploration of two people in love, seeking to overcome the numerous obstacles in their way, the film never threatens to become a soppy love story. Atta Yaqub as Casim (in his first acting role) does an excellent job as the perpetually torn son and lover.