Just a Kiss
Running Time: 104 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom
Following the success of My Name is Joe and Sweet Sixteen, director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty have teamed up for the third of their Glasgow-set dramas, ‘Æ Fond Kiss…’. An ensemble piece about a forbidden love amidst the religious and racial tensions of the Glasgow-Asian community, ‘Æ Fond Kiss…’ is like a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the post-9/11 era – but, uncharacteristically for a Loach film, ‘Æ Fond Kiss…’ ends on a relatively hopeful (if uncertain and bittersweet) note for its star-cross’d lovers.
Pakistan- born Glasgow shopowner Tariq Khan (Ahmad Riaz) and his wife Sadia (Shamshad Akhtar) have arranged for their son Casim (Atta Yaqub), a DJ in the Glasgow club scene, to marry his cousin Jasmine and move into a newly built extension of the family home – but when Casim falls in love with his sister’s school music teacher Roisin (Eva Birthistle), an Irish Catholic divorcee, both must decide whether their relationship has enough of a future to make them turn their back on their past.
The film’s conjoined themes of intergenerational and interracial conflicts in a contemporary British setting make comparisons with ‘East is East’ inevitable – but ‘Æ Fond Kiss…’ is the better film because of the even-handedness with which it treats all sides of the argument, and the script’s genuine sympathy for each of its characters. Tariq in particular may be a patriarch and an inflexible traditionalist, but far from being demonised like Om Puri’s monstrous character in ‘East is East’, his hardened attitudes are explained by his horrific experiences during the Partition of India and his subsequent encounters with racism in Glasgow – and his love for his family is never questioned. Certainly Tariq and Casim clash – but ‘Æ Fond Kiss…’ is subtle enough never to allow its issues to be reduced to a merely Oedipal struggle.
Named after a rueful poem addressed by Robert Burns to a lover whom the poet must abandon – a poem which Roisin teaches her pupils to sing during the school’s Catholic Mass despite a complaint that Burns was a “drunken fornicator” – by its very title ‘Æ Fond Kiss’ raises expectations that Casim will eventually, like Burns, have to leave his lover behind – something which he seems destined to do several times in the film. In the end, however, it is not Roisin, but his own beloved family and community which he will desert, and it is this which ultimately gives the film its wistfully elegiac tone, worthy of the Scots bard. For behind the romantic plot and conventional ending lurks a heartfelt lament for the passing of one culture as it becomes assimilated into another, and even as we are invited to celebrate Casim’s open-minded move into a new kind of life, we are left to contemplate just what he has sacrificed along the way.
It's Got: Race, religion, the generation gap, romance, love, loss, and Burns - plus some fine naturalistic acting from a mostly non-professional cast.
It Needs: Understanding, tolerance and flexibility.
Alternatives:East is East, Jungle Fever
This tale of love and loss inside (and outside) the Glasgow-Asian community is even-handed without resorting to easy stereotypes.