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July 29, 2022 / Game Theory Films

Starring: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Macy Shackleton

Directed By: Clio Barnard

Ali and Ava, both lonely for different reasons, meet and sparks fly. Over a lunar month a deep connection begins to grow, despite the legacy of Ava's past relationship, and Ali's emotional turmoil at the breakdown of his marriage.

Written By Darren

Rating 2 out of 5

Ali & Ava features two charismatic performances by Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook that bring life to the film and draws the audience into the experience, but the story feels rushed and never develops the emotional connection it wishes to make with the audience.

There have been many films focusing on a romantic relationship between two characters that make an unlikely match. It’s a common theme for films in this genre to build their stories around, and these films largely rely on the lead performances. Luckily in this film, there are two great performances from Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook as Ali and Ava respectively.

Akhtar and Rushbrook have a genuine connection that brings such life to their characters, making them feel like people you would meet in real life. They are flawed, vulnerable yet loving, making it easy for the audience to become invested in the characters. Whether it be a romantic scene, or a scene where Ali and Ava are merely listening to music, Akhtar and Rushbrook light up the screen with their performances. Individually, Akhtar and Rushbrook are just as great. Akhtar captures Ali’s inner turmoil perfectly as he processes the end of his marriage and looks for a new purpose in life. On the other hand, Rushbrook holds her character together as she is haunted by the trauma of her previous relationship while remaining strong to protect her children from the dark truth of Ava’s relationship with their father. Between Akhtar and Rushbrook, their performances are the biggest assets of the film, and without them the film would not work.

It’s in the story where the film stumbles. Both Ali and Ava have unsolved issues from their pasts and their families don’t fully approve of their relationship, which puts strains on their relationship as their love grows over the course of a lunar month. These roadblocks in their relationship are standard to the genre, but with a run time of approximately an hour and a half, the writing cannot develop these plot elements enough. The film spends the first half an hour introducing the characters of Ali and Ava, setting the groundwork for their relationship to blossom over the remaining hour. It's the right amount of setup so that their relationship grows naturally on screen while an honest connection is developed between Ali and Ava.

However the remaining sixty minutes of the film compresses their romantic relationship, the effect of Ali and Ava’s pasts on their relationship, their families reactions, and the outcome of their relationship. It has too much to accomplish at once, causing the screenplay to quickly move from idea to idea, preventing them from fully developing. Because of this, the film does not create the emotional connection it hopes. At the same time, the short run time benefits the film, aiding the narrative issues as the film is over pretty quickly so it does not drag on too long.

Each viewer’s individual enjoyment of Ali & Ava is going to depend if they are able to connect with the story. For me, the narrative issues were too much of a barrier, but for the more casual viewer, they may seem minor and could easily be swept up by the great performances from Akhtar and Rushbrook who carry the entire film. So despite the constrained story that is never given the time it needs to fully develop due to the short runtime, the performances of Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook is more than enough reason to give Ali & Ava a chance as the film’s intentions are genuine, giving an honest and charming relationship on screen for audiences to enjoy.

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