If you liked Amélie then I think you’ll love this colourful Spanish film, packed with emotion, rejection and comedy. Paco R Baños’ coming-of-age drama Ali is a story of a rebellious teen who seems to reject everyone who shows her (or anyone she cares about) love or compassion. It may sound like a typical teen chick flick, but trust me it’s not. It’s an enjoyable and relaxing film to watch, it isn’t one that makes you cling to the edge of your seat, it is one that feels so real and relatable (not just to teens but to anyone who has been a teen) that it’s simply a pleasure to watch.
Nadia de Santiago splendidly plays a teenage rebel with all the attached emotions and moodswings that they experience. As a teenager myself who has the occasional moodswing, I found it really easy to relate to the characters. However this isn’t just a film for teenagers, it’s a film for adults. Ali’s mother (played by Verónica Forqué) is a 50 year old woman who suffers from a mental illness but still finds joy in her youthful spirit and dances until her feet are sore. For a person of any age, some of the scenes in the film make your heart melt and makes you want to get up and dance around yourself.
Paco R Baños uses effortless yet abstract locations and bold colours. I think that if any other director used a supermarket, a train track or just a simple apartment, they wouldn’t quite achieve the artistic flare which Baños has achieved in Ali. The use of sun drenched and old fashioned colours is incredibly simple yet exceedingly satisfying to the eye. Unlike any other film I have watched, (possibly leaving Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom out of this statement as it is a film incomparable to any other because of Anderson’s genius artistic eye) Baños takes advantage of the use of colour and without over exaggerating it to the point of an unrealistic fantasy, he exaggerates the colour in a straightforward manner to the point of captivation.
As much as our protagonist wants to distance herself from all emotion and relationships, the moment we do see her caring side is portrayed beautifully. Without spoiling the plot, one memorable scene which sticks like glue on the film section of my brain, is when mother and daughter share a swim in the local swimming baths. Even though it is very simple, the slight use of slow motion and the idealised colour of the blue water connotes a considerate and compassionate bond between the two characters. It is very rare that simple things like post-production effects and colour can actually make you remember a time you may have felt that same emotion, whether it was towards a mother, grandmother or a friend.
I would definitely recommend Ali to anyone who enjoys an amusing and down to Earth coming-of-age drama. It is overflowing with kindhearted scenes of friendship, artistic flare and realism. Ali is so pleasing because it is so realistic, it doesn’t over dramatise emotions or events, it’s simple, easy going and loveable. Even though it focuses on serious topics such as isolation and mental illnesses, it doesn’t seem to focus on the negative side of the harsh reality. It is a film that makes you smile. It is a film I will definitely watch many more times, and a film you’ll regret missing.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Megan Al-Ghailani (February ’13)
Ali is screening as part of the 19th ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Film Festival. The festival takes place between Fri 8 – Sun 24 March.