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film review

Ali is played by Adeel Akhtar while Claire Rushbrook is Ava in Clio Barnard's Ali & Ava.Courtesy of Game Theory Films

  • Ali & Ava
  • Written and directed by Clio Barnard
  • Starring Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar
  • Classification N/A; 95 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres July 29, including the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto

Critic’s Pick


Ali & Ava is an unlikely romance. Set in the working-class British environment of Bradford, it tells the story of Ali (Adeel Akhtar), a middle-aged South Asian man who goes about town managing properties owned by his family.

He’s a genial landlord who steps inside the home of a tenant family to fix a shelf, and convinces their young daughter to go to school. While dropping said young girl off at school, Ali meets Ava (Claire Rushbrook), a classroom assistant. Warm and affectionate to her students, as well as her five grandchildren, Ava is a straightforward woman who carries scars from her former marriage. Ali’s quirky personality intrigues her.

Sparks fly when Ali and Ava, both lonely for different reasons, finally meet.Courtesy of Game Theory Films

Meanwhile, Ali is putting up a front because he has been separated from his wife Runa – but both are keeping up appearances for Ali’s sake. Ali and Ava are drawn to each other despite their differing interests in music, however racial and social tensions mark their blossoming romance.

A quiet study of its characters, Ali & Ava is a fresh take on otherwise well-worn rom-com narratives.

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