(director: Ken Loach; screenwriter: Paul Laverty; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editor: Jonathan Morris; music: ; cast: Atta Yaqub (Casim Kahn), Atta Yaqub (Casim Khan), Eva Birthistle (Roisin Murphy), Shabana Bakhsh (Tahara Khan), Shamshad Akhtar (Sadia Khan), Ahmad Riaz (Tariq Khan), Shy Ramsan (Hammid), Gerard Kelly (Parish Priest), Ghizala Avan (Rukhsana Khan); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Rebecca O’Brien; Lions Gate Home Entertainment; 2004)

“For Loach, the liberal filmmaker who is considered in film circles to be the social conscience of films, this is one of his lesser films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ken Loach’s (“Sweet Sixteen”/”My Name is Joe”) romantic Romeo-and-Juliet drama about a mixed-race relationship is set in a contemporary working-class Glasgow neighborhood. The film through the romance between a white Irish teacher in a Catholic school, Roisin Murphy (Eva Birthistle), and a dark-skinned Muslim second-generation immigrant from a conservative Punjabi Pakistani family, Casim (Atta Yaqub), brings out the religious and cultural obstacles faced by those who defy convention–no matter how defiant the lovers are of convention. It’s scripted by Loach’s regular writer Paul Laverty, plying as much melodrama out of the conflict as possible. The title is lifted from a 1791 Robert Burns poem:

Ae fond kiss, and then we severAe fareweel, alas, for ever! Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee, Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee. Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, While the star of hope she leaves him? Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me; Dark despair around benights me

The film begins with secondary student Tahara (Shabana Bakhsh) defiantly lecturing her entire class that: “I’m a Glaswegian Pakistani teenage woman of Muslim descent who supports Glasgow Rangers in a Catholic school.” When bullies razz her she runs after them with her DJ and aspiring club owner brother Casim trying to calm her down. They end up in Tahara’s beautiful blonde music teacher Roisin’s classroom and this accidental meeting leads to a romance between the two.

Casem works in his parents’ grocery store and after hours is a club D.J., who along with his best friend, Hammid (Shy Ramsan), dreams of opening his own club. As his relationship with Roisin heats up, he goes frequently to London to meet with investors which casts a cloud on the relationship. There are many other obstacles to overcome such as calling off his parents arranged marriage with his cousin Jasmine (Sunna Mirza) which leads to his being ostracized by his father Tariq (Ahmad Riaz). Lapsed Catholic Roisin runs into problems with a concerned hypocritical priest (Gerard Kelly) at her Catholic school, who refuses to renew her contract because of the affair even though she’s the best music teacher they ever had.

It’s filmed in a staid conventional style that adds little excitement to the tense tale. Atta Yaqub, a model-turned-actor, just doesn’t have the acting mettle to give depth to his role to show the raging conflict he’s experiencing between opposing family and following his heart. Everything is weighed against the outsider lovers, who are hit from all sides by hopeless bigots. Everything seemed too obvious and perfunctory, and told too many times before to seem fresh. For Loach, the liberal filmmaker who is considered in film circles to be the social conscience of films, this is one of his lesser films.

REVIEWED ON 10/14/2005 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”