Ali & Ava: Finding Love in a Hopeless Place

Directed by Clio Barnard,?Ali & Ava?tells the story of two people who are both lonely for different reasons. Separated (secretly) from his wife, Ali (Adeel Akhtar) may have a spouse in the home but his heart feels alone. For Ava (Claire Rushbrook), she lives with her adult son and his family but wishes that her own life had love once again. When the two meet, sparks begin to fly but both struggle to work past the pain that they have brought into their new relationship.

With humility and grace, Ali & Ava is a beautiful and heartwarming drama that speaks to our deepest of emotional needs. With the spirit of a true independent film, Ali & Ava has a simple premise with complex emotional issues. Admittedly, the story of a man and woman meeting during a turbulent period in their lives is a tale that we?ve heard countless times before. However, Ali & Ava brings a humility and depth to its performances that sets it apart from other modern romances. 

Instead of overwhelming the viewer with fancy directorial tricks, Barnard wisely puts the emphasis on her stars and their performances. Paired with one another, both Akhtar and Rushbrook have genuine magic. Together, there is a trust between actors that feels honest. What?s more they do an excellent job creating characters who feel real by demonstrating the disappointment of everyday life yet still contain a desire to live it to its fullness. As the soul-searching Ali, Akhtar creates a character who yearns to find some form of connection with another person. At the same time, Rushbrook invests in Ava?s brokenness but never extinguishers her spark. It?s a delicate balance to walk but both actors bring their characters to life with authenticity and grace.

At its heart, Ali & Ava speaks to the bravery that it takes to crawl down into our most difficult of moments. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Ali feels as though his voice has been taken from him. Meanwhile, Ava?s traumatic ex-husband has left scars within the home, yet she struggles to speak about them with her son. Both coming from what seems to be places of hopelessness, they bear the scars that have been put upon them by others.

Even so, as both characters deal with her own emotional trauma, so too do they fight to live forward. While both may be hurting, both also refuse to give up on life. Although the people in their lives are unwilling to hear their needs, Ali and Ava find something in each other that allows them to feel whole again. These are two characters who desperately want to be understood by others in order to feel appreciated. 

In short, both characters want to be heard.

Interestingly, this desire also connects with the film?s use of music. While both appreciate different styles that range from heavy pop to Bob Dylan, both Ali and Ava allow themselves to share in the other person?s interests. In doing so, open themselves up to hear the words and music that gives the other life, allowing them to connect deeply with each other?s soul. In these moments, barriers of culture, age and experiences melt away between them and they begin to feel safe in each other?s arms. 

And, in the midst of that safety, trust and love begin to bloom.

Beautiful and touching, Ali & Ava is may be a simple tale but it is carried by strong performances that resonate with the soul. As they meet in the middle, both Ali and Ava allow their walls of hurt to tumble down, reminding viewers that of the power of meeting in the middle.

In these spaces, love can bloom, no matter how hopeless it may seem.

Ali & Ava is available in theatres on Friday, July 29th, 2022.

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