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Ae Fond Kiss’ a multicultural ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Grace Myers | Friday, March 31, 2006

“Ae Fond Kiss” is the story of an independent Scottish woman and a first-generation Pakistani man who fall in love in middle-class Glasgow. When their family and friends discover their love, scandal breaks and threatens to tear them apart.

Sound familiar? Yeah, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this Romeo and Juliet-like plot. But director Ken Loach gives the story the spin it needs to be fresh and appealing.

The film addresses the issues of race, immigration and religion in multicultural Britain, beginning with the younger sister’s class speech stating, “I reject the Western simplification of a Muslim.” Indeed the problems this family faces are anything but simple, focusing on how Muslim’s are viewed in British society during our modern age of terrorism. “Ae Fond Kiss” is indeed provocative, intense and fabulously up-to-date. It’s a great love story by a renowned director.

Casim (Atta Yaqub) is the jewel of his tight-knit, first-generation Pakistani family. His parents have struggled greatly to raise and educate their children in a city they do not understand. The audience discovers that Casim’s father is busy building an extension to their house, so that Casim can live there with his arranged bride-to-be, Jasmine. Casim is resigned to this fate, valuing the happiness of his family above all else. That is, until he meets Roisin (Eva Birthistle), a music teacher at his sister’s school. She is smart, talented, beautiful and extremely independent. She is also white and Catholic.

Despite his fast-approaching marriage, Casim asks Roisin out, she accepts and they begin seeing each other frequently. She sees the club he deejays at and the space he dreams of turning into his own club. Casim soon calls off his marriage with Jasmine. His family is devastated and is shamed by the entire Pakistani community. Casim struggles greatly from the heartache he has caused, while Roison tries to understand his situation despite not having had a family for many years.

One might assume that Roisin can loose nothing by this relationship (and indeed Casim suffers much more), but when Casim and Roisin move in together out of wedlock she is rebuked by her local parish priest and forced to resign from her teaching position at the Catholic school. Prejudice is rampant in both communities, with Roisin and Casim fighting to stay together. Finally, Casim leaves his family, knowing that it is, sadly, the only way he can be with the woman he loves.

“Ae Fond Kiss” is the first major film for both of the leads. Their inexperience is often evident and they sometimes do not quite carry the gravity of their role. However, their innocence helps the film in many ways. The two sometimes seem nervous in a subtle way, indicating the feelings of a new romance. They grow more comfortable as the film progresses and have remarkable on-screen chemistry.

Director Ken Loach is an internationally acclaimed British director, who began working as a television dramatist for the BBC in 1963. Throughout the 1990s he rose to international acclaim for his feature films containing highly provocative and often radical political messages. He is not afraid to display the worst aspects of society. But “Ae Fond Kiss” is not typical for Loach. It takes place in comfortable, middle-class Scotland, free from drugs and gangs, with characters that have ideals, hopes, dreams and a sense of humor.

“Ae Fond Kiss” may not be highly original, or a landmark piece for Loach, but it is a remarkable love story with a highly relevant call for tolerance.