' Cinema Romantico: A Fond Kiss

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Fond Kiss

Recently the ever-trustworthy Netflix advised me that based upon the movies in my personal queue that I might enjoy a film from 2004 called "A Fond Kiss", directed by someone with whom I'm unfamiliar and featuring a cast I didn't know. But the premise sounded intriguing to me so I moved it to the top of my queue and a few days later it arrived in my mailbox.

Netflix, you rapscallions of cinema, you've gone and done it again. I didn't merely enjoy it. I loved it. What a fantastic movie! So real, so knowing, so moving. And yet again I ask - why can't we get more movies like this? Haven't we as a collective movie-going audience earned the right to view more movies similiar to this one? I think we have, gosh darn it.

Loyal Reader: "Cinema Romantico, are you just going to rant and rave or are you going to tell us about the movie itself?"

Whoops. My apologies, loyal reader. When I see such an exquisite film I tend to let my emotions get the best of me. Let me get my bearings here.

The premise: a young Muslim man, Casim, and a young Irish Catholic woman, Roisin, both living in Glasgow, Scotland, meet and fall in love only to face strong consequences from his devout family.

Okay, okay, you're thinking "Romeo & Juliet". Right? Star-crossed lovers? It's "been done", you're saying. You've "seen it". Trust me, you have not.

Casim is engaged to his first cousin from Pakistan whom he has never met. But once he meets Roisin - a teacher at his sister's school - he starts a relationship with her despite the arranged marriage. Of course, he will eventually have to advise her about his and that's going to be problematic.

I want to make it clear nothing that keeps these two characters apart is artificial. It isn't a case of the screenwriter backing in a dump truck full of manufactured roadblocks and splattering them all over the road our characters traverse. Everything that happens to these characters is what would happen to these characters in these situations. The way in which the characters respond is how these characters would respond.

Casim's family is not portrayed over-the-top and conniving to force Casim to adopt to what they want for his life. They are fervent in their religious beliefs as many people of this faith are. Within the framework of those beliefs, and their community, he is expected to marry within his family. Anything less than this is a disappointment not simply to his family but to his people as a whole. He knows this. And the movie shows him wrestling with deciding what is right, what he must do, and what he wants to do.

While I don't know for sure, one can imagine this type of problem is much more prevalent in the current world for Muslims. Perhaps not so much in their respective homelands but once they go to a different part of the world, with so many other cultures around them, it must be difficult for a second-generation Muslim to conform to typical family obligations.

Roisin, meanwhile, has to do decide whether or not she can live with the fact Casim's family may never accept her. And her own roots in Catholicism come back to her haunt in regards to the relationship.

My own grapple with religion here in my late 20's helps me idenitfy with these characters. Often times organized religion seems more about what you can't do then about what you can. The scene Roisin has with her parish Priest strikes me as poignantly true. It's their way or the highway and when you've accepted that - and only when you've accepted that - can you start to ask questions.

In reading up on Ken Loach, the director of the film, I learn that he primarily uses not only unknown actors but people who have never acted at all. This is the case of Atta Yaqub, who plays Casim. And at times this fact does show. Some of his line readings are stilted but for the most part his mannerisms ring true. On the other hand, Eva Birthistle - who has acted before - as Roisin is phenomenal. You will feel everything she feels. She will wreck your heart.

And the end - oh, the wonderful ending. I, of course, will not give it away. But the movie ends exactly when it should. Not a second too soon or too late. I love movies that come off as simply a first act in a person's life.

This is filmmaking at its most heartbreaking. This is filmmaking at its most intelligent. This is filmmaking at its most majestic. Excuse me, I'm getting worked up with happiness again. I need to go do a cartwheel.

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