Ava (Léa Mysius, 2017): France

Reviewed by Alicia Huhn. Viewed at the Chinese
1 Theater in Hollywood at American Film Institute’s AFIFEST 2017.

Léa Mysius studied literature at the Sorbonne prior to studying screenwriting at La Fémis and was only 26 when she began making Ava.  She explained at the Q & A session there only weeks left to complete her final project for school and the them of blindness came about during the ocular migraines Mysius experienced during the project.  The trailer actually does a good job of tipping off to the adventurous spirit of the film but cannot relay the daring, bizarre elements of creativity and vividly raw emotion experienced in Ava.

The budding young actress, Noée Abita had me from the beginning with her innocent baby cheeks and the warm feeling of being a kid half asleep with a full belly in the sun at the seashore. Her appearance is that of a child.  An ominous black dog suddenly appears amongst brightly colored umbrellas and bikinis at the happy seashore, a foreshadowing of the darkness to come.  Ava has no idea yet that she will loose sight forever.  The dog winds through the crowd and ends up at the pile of french fries perched on her belly. So the black dog sneaks up on the girl while she innocently suns at the beach and starts eating the fries.  Much in the same way the darkness of blindness is about to suddenly come to her.  For me this film was about much more than the young girls current tragedy.  This is a story about a girl, who is the daughter of the mother of two girls, there is no mention of either of the fathers and quickly there is a new man at the pool her mother would rather play with than focus her attention on Ava at this difficult time.  The sexuality and nudity displayed in the full version of the film will not be aired in The United States due to the age of Ava (16) at the time of filming and the nudity of a 13 year old being portrayed, I guess.   I find this to be one of the most interesting facts of the feature.  The nudity in my opinion, is all tastefully done. I appreciate the blatant obnoxiousness of the scenes with the mother because it is from the 13 year olds point of view. It is appropriately, artistically portrayed and the emotion of the film makes me grateful the rest of the world is not so stifled and sexually repressed that they can actually conversate and illustrate, their experiences about it.

This is a coming of age story, young minds are curious and so the film feeds the curiosity of all, the child, the mother and the audience.  The fun is in the adventure Ava finds with Juan and Lupo, the dog.  She becomes loyally involved with Juan who finally accepts and embraces Ava and the two of them find freedom and escape from the pressures of life together.  The very obvious theme of Bonny and Clyde comes to mind while they rob the beach goers of beer and food for a feast at their secret lair.

Ava is not composed of a lighthearted subject material nor is it delicately handled yet it is full of vibrant light and energy on this last summer of daylight for Ava.  No wonder the colors are so bold.  She is counting down the hours and recording the narrowing black circle of vision on the wall by painting circles that narrow over time.  The pace is lively and unexpected like the life of the girl. In spite of the darkness of life Ava fights her desperate feeling of giving in or wanting to die, she takes life by the balls and makes fun of it and has fun with it. There is an outwardly honest, forward, in your face feel to the pace and vivid cinematography.

Why should we teach our girls to hide or be afraid of “coming of age”? It is better to talk about everything so that people do not feel the need to hide anything.  I am a just beginning to look at film in a studious way and Léa Mysius is inspiring, she is also lucky in many ways to be French so her film can be shown somewhere other than festivals in its entirety!



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