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"A Fond Kiss"

"A Fond Kiss" is an unconventional romantic drama from the perspective of Casim (Atta Yaqub), a second-generation Pakistani dutifully fulfilling his parents' expectations while dreaming of opening a nightclub and patiently wooing his sisters' white schoolteacher Roisin (Eva Birthistle). The romance that develops poses problems for both, and not just because of racism: Casim is betrothed to a woman he's never met, and Roisin is awaiting annulment of a marriage she no longer occupies.

"Kiss" takes a little patience. Loach aims for documentary-style realism, as if the director and his audience have no more immediate insight into characters than someone sitting in the same room. The most telling events often take place during the most routine moments. Casim's sister argues about college with her parents, who want her to attend the local university rather than travel abroad, and Roisin gets a verbal thrashing from the parish priest, who doesn't approve of her loose morals.

Loach is feeding his characters rope, knowing they eventually will hang themselves. He stumps Casim's strict father by asking why he has moved to the West if he has no want of its values and uses thepriest to show that the scary side of religious fundamentalism can be found anywhere.

The technique is similar to an inquisitive neighborhood kid turning over rocks to see what's squirming at ground level. Loach is interested in revealing everyday people and their minor calamities. Under the microscope of the director's lens, they can be surprisingly thought-provoking. — Wayne Melton

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