Ken Loach’s "Ae Fond Kiss". A Multicultural Romeo and Juliet Story?

Term Paper, 2009

13 Pages, Grade: 1,7




1 The Romeo and Juliet motif

2 Obstacles to Roisin and Casim’s happiness
2.1 Tradition, conventions and Casim’s community
2.2 Prejudice from Roisin’s social circle

3 Endemic Prejudices of the Characters
3.1 Roisin’s egocentrism
3.2 Casim’s challenges

Conclusion: Casim and Roisin –“a pair of star-cross’d lovers”[1]?



Ae Fond Kiss […] revisits the age-old theme of forbidden love most famously explored by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, but with the two main characters turned into a Scots-Asian disc jockey and a young Irish schoolteacher, living in Glasgow. (Pendreigh 2004)

When Ken Loach’s film Ae Fond Kiss came to the movie theatres in 2004 reviews announced it as “a multicultural 'Romeo and Juliet'” story or a “Romeo and Juliet-like plot” (Myers 2006). The motif of a forbidden relationship and tragic, impossible love because the lovers come from different cultural or family backgrounds is a popular theme that has been entertaining and fascinating audiences and readers for centuries (cf. Smelik 2003: 56). Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet is doubtlessly the most well-known play that deals with a hindered love affair between two people who come from different societal backgrounds, so it is not surprising that this parallel was drawn in connection with the love story we find in Ae Fond Kiss (AFK). Without a doubt AFK contains a number of elements that classify it in line with other European movies around the interethnic Romeo and Juliet motif, such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Angst essen Seelen auf or A Taste of Honey by Tony Richardson. (cf. Smelik 2003: 57-59). The life of the protagonists, Casim and Roisin, is made difficult when they start a romantic relationship that brings Casim’s Pakistani background into conflict with Roisin’s Irish Catholic background They are condemned to experience how long standing prejudice and narrow-mindedness get in the way of what looks like a promising, almost harmonious love story –just like it tragically happens to Romeo and Juliet.

Casim’s Pakistani family is determined to impede the relationship in order to retain family traditions and honour. Roisin on the other hand has to experience pressure from her place of employment; she is expected to lead a life according to Catholic conventions. However the relationship has to face more complicated aspects than just incomprehension from the neighbourhood as the main characters themselves are caught in stereotypes as well. Therefore it would be rash to simply label AFK as a modern Romeo and Juliet story. In the following essay I will show that Casim and Roisin are not only in a struggle to become happy together because of the intolerance they experience from their peers, but also they have issues in overcoming their own narrow-mindedness.

First, I will look at the classic Romeo and Juliet topos in order to define the elements making the difference of their love at all costs. I will then focus on the parallels between this most famous love tragedy and the love story in AFK. Finally I will point out the scenes of AFK in which the difficulties that Casim and Roisin experience, away from external influences and intolerance of others, arise.

1 The Romeo and Juliet motif

“The theme of the ‘unlikely couple’”, as we find it in AFK, “[...] harks back to the classic topos of the tragic love between Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s play” (Smelik 2003: 57). The essential elements of this topos are the prohibition and obstacles in the way of two young lovers and a love that is so strong it resists all obstacles to their relationship. The families of Romeo and Juliet are sworn enemies who have been at war with each other for a long time; any kind of friendly relationship between members of the families is unthinkable. Beyond that, Juliet has already been set up with a fiancé. But in spite of everything Romeo and Juliet are not afraid to detach themselves from their family bonds to live their love together. The boundless willingness to abandon their families becomes evident in Act II: “[...] be but sworn my love / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.” (Romeo and Juliet: II.2, l.34f.) “[...]Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptised” (ibid. l.49). They are prepared to get married and flee the city whatever the consequences of their actions will be. (cf. Gibbons 1980: 50; 72) The tragic dimension of the plot is that even though the couple is willing to overcome all barriers and to sacrifice everything necessary to be together, their involvement results in the death of both protagonists.

2 Obstacles to Roisin and Casim’s happiness

2.1 Tradition, conventions and Casim’s community

As mentioned before, Ae Fond Kiss certainly tells a Romeo and Juliet-like story in some aspects, particularly when we look at the hindrances that are lain in their way. First of all Casim is under considerable strain from his parents who already have a precise idea of what Casim’s future shall look like. Casim’s parents Tariq and Sadia are concerned to provide their son with all that is necessary for him to lead a proper and happy life. They set him up with a Pakistani wife-to-be, whose photograph is already part of the living room decoration. They proudly present their future daughter-in-law to their visitors and consider themselves as “fortunate” to have found such a good looking wife for their son. Not only have they arranged a spouse for Casim; they have also taken care of building him a place where he can raise up his family. They spare no efforts to build an extension to their house, so that Casim will be able to accommodate his family in the future. This means firstly that they procure the financial means to build the house. More than that, Casim’s father puts a lot of lifeblood into the project, got “completely obsessed with it” (AFK: 1:28:36). He passionately discusses the ground plans, has every one of his family and friends involved in the planning and even the flower-beds, which are so precious to Casim’s mother, are vandalised to fulfil the dream of a bright future for their son. Later, Tariq furnishes the house not only with what he considers as quality furnishings, “Real McCoy stuff, [...] real pine wood” (AFK: 1:27:37), but even with electronic equipment, the utility of which Tariq is not quite convinced of or familiar with, as you can tell by the awkward way he presents this purchase to Casim: “the internet stuff” (AFK:1:27:51). His parents also invested in his education in order to provide a basis for a well-ordered career as an accountant. Even though this career choice would not necessarily be an obstacle to a relation with an Irish woman, all these efforts show that a whole different future was literally planned in detail for Casim. By opting for something different to this life plan, he would upset a whole set of well-ordered arrangements.


[1] Expression borrowed from Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Prologue

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Ken Loach’s "Ae Fond Kiss". A Multicultural Romeo and Juliet Story?
Free University of Berlin
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Clare Stalder (Author), 2009, Ken Loach’s "Ae Fond Kiss". A Multicultural Romeo and Juliet Story?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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