Ae Fond Kiss… is a 2004 film by Ken Loach, a director who shouldn’t need any introduction since he’s one of the greatest names of contemporary independent and social cinema. In the early years of this century, Loach made at least two films focusing on immigration: It’s a Free World… in 2007 and Ae Fond Kiss… to which this post is dedicated.
Glasgow, 2003. The first image of the film immediately gives us an idea of where we are: a newspaper headline in a newsstand reports that the church ordered Celtic fans not to have sex in Spain in occasion of UEFA Cup final Sevilla – Celtic. In response, a dog pees on that newsstand, in a sort of response to that statement…
But this is only the beginning: here comes the monologue made by Tahara (Shabana Akhtar Bakhsh) at school. She’s the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and she speaks with a strong Galwegian accent (which I find semi incomprehensible), and claims to be of Muslim family, a woman, happy to be in a Christian school, a fan of a local team, etcetera. In short, this is an aperitif to wipe out many possible stereotypes although the scene after that shows that that’s not something easy to do, as she’s is bullied by some classmates due to her speech.
But the main story of the movie is that of Tahara’s brother, Casim (Atta Yaqub), who falls in love with the Irish blondie Roisin (Eva Birthistle), a music teacher in his sister’s school. There’s a problem, though: he’s supposed to marry a cousin of his in a few weeks as decided by his parents (played by Ahmad Riaz and Shamshad Akhtar) in accordance with the tradition of his culture, like his older sister Rukhsana (Ghizala Avan) did.
The film focuses on the conflict between modernity and tradition, and shows how living in a country far away from the one in which the family was born inevitably changes the perception of life of the second generations who, while not denying their origins, want to make different choices and be more independent than their parents were in their youth. This leads to difficult situations both within the family and with those who approach it from the outside (in this case, Roisin). In the meantime, Ken Loach also comments on Catholic bigotry since a good teacher is denied a job just because she’s divorced!
Ae Fond Kiss… therefore deals with a few themes and analyses them well, with an intelligent development and with a style to which the English director has accustomed us over his long career. The finale is less pessimistic than one might think, since our protagonists happen to be not in an idyllic situation but still open to a possibly good future with Casim (who gets to choose his future bride) and Tahara who decides to disobey his parents regarding going to university. This is a must watch to better understand the immigration debate which today is more heated than ever and it’s often and sadly reduced to a series of slogans by demagogic politicians. Ciao!