ALI & AVA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Ali & Ava is the latest film by British filmmaker Clio Barnard, one that resonates with a sweet dose of social realism set in the ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood of Bradford, England. It is also a rare middle-age romance that stars Claire Rushbrook as a widowed kindergarten teacher’s assistant who eventually romantically clicks with Adeel Akhtar’s Ali, a British Pakistani man who picks up a student whose family are his tenants, offers Ava a ride home as a downpour ensues. The pair also share a mutual love of pop music while Ali also DJs occasionally. Alas, Ali’s marriage is in the midst of crumbling while Claire’s skinhead son Callum, who lives with her while she helps with raising his baby, objects to his mom’s new companion and at one point he even threatens Ali with a saber.

Ava, a mother of four grown children and grandmother to five, is still coping with the after-effects of her last relationship with a man who abused her horribly and is now deceased. Alas, Barnard’s narrative is somewhat entangled as the storyline never quite fully heats up. But, luckily, Rushbrook and Akhtar exhibit plenty of charm, warmth and emotion together. Less a drama and more of an unconventional romantic comedy, Barnard doesn’t always fill in the blanks in her narrative. But Rushbrook provides her character with plenty of warmth while Akhtar indulges in humor. Barnard attempts to touch upon such social issues as racism, violence and domestic abuse. But in the end, it is her two stars who keep us watching.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.