Aki Omoshaybi's directorial debut opens a refreshingly beautiful new dialogue for romantic dramas.
Aki Omoshaybi’s debut directorial feature film REAL is as true as it can be. This romantic-drama, which features Aki himself in the leading role alongside the brilliant Pippa Bennett-Warner, whisks you away on a reality-driven narrative that explores the modern-day experience of online dating. Set in an inner-city working-class area in Portsmouth, the film explores both the falseness of constructed personas alongside the fragility of life for those living in the poorer areas of the UK.
REAL begins its narrative with the introduction of its protagonists Kyle (Aki Omoshaybi) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) through the casual meeting of the two who begin dating in a seemingly normal but uncomfortable manner. The pair both build a ‘perfect’ persona for themselves; Kyle, a fancy solicitor living in the up-market city, and Jamie, a professional businesswoman. As the story unravels, so does their growing relationships as truths begin to break through the cracks which form. Whilst both are presenting themselves as cool, calm, and collected on the outside – it becomes clear that behind the scenes, this representation is far from the truth.
Exploring issues of class, romance and mental health struggles can be incredibly difficult to portray in films as these elements often feel unbalanced and unfair. However, Omoshaybi unearths his hidden directorial talent through the expanse of REAL to create an emotional drama which handles the struggles of alcoholism and loss in heartfelt conjunction with that of love and friendship. It is clear that REAL aims to tug on the heartstrings of its audience, and with a brilliant cast and excellent script, it does just that.
It’s quite mind-blowing to believe this is Omoshaybi’s first feature due to its succinct nature. REAL manages to take you on not only a journey of emotions as you connect with each character through the story, but also managing to bring a contextual level that invites you to consider the representational issues within British film. The lack of black British films that follow a storyline of romance-based strengths and hardships rather than the usual ‘youth’ or ‘gang’ films truly stands out, but REAL feels as though it strives to bridge this gap and perhaps encourage more filmmakers to do so.
REAL draws you in only to break you just a tiny bit, but in a good way. Omoshaybi’s film does exactly what it says on the tin, providing you a real experience that focuses on the lives of those who are underrepresented, bringing relief from the Love Actually’s and Notting Hill’s of the world.
REAL, directed by Aki Omoshaybi, is distributed in the UK via Verve Pictures, certificate 15. It’s released on 11th September in cinemas and online, for further information about the film, click here. Check out the trailer below: