Ava (2017)

Director: Léa Mysius
Writer: Léa Mysius, Paul Guilhaume
Cast: Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano, Tamara Cano
Seen on: 24.5.2022

Ava (Noée Abita) has a rare eye condition that makes her go blind bit by bit. She just heard that this will happen sooner than expected, and her summer in the touristy town in which she lives with her mother Maud (Laure Calamy) and a baby sister is suddenly the last she might ever see. In trying to cope with that, Ava makes some very questionable decisions, starting with stealing Juan’s (Juan Cano) dog. Older, pretty and quite possibly criminal Juan intrigues Ava in general, and he becomes her path away from everything.

Ava is a challenging film, often a little surreal and ambiguous in its meaning. Your mileage may vary regarding how much you like it, but it is definitely a film that grabs attention.

The film poster showing Ava (Noée Abita) covered in mud aiming a gun at the viewer.

Ava doesn’t make things easy for the audience. It tells its story in hypnotic images, sometimes they are actual dreams, sometimes they just have a dream-like quality. In any case, visually the film is really extra-ordinary.

On a narrative level, though, I was a little less taken with it, I have to admit. Metaphorical blindness is always difficult. I mean, Ava is actually going blind, but it is clear that this is mostly a narrative catalyste and her blindness is not something that the film really considers in its own right. I also wasn’t sure exactly what the metaphor was supposed to be: that Ava doesn’t see a future in her life anymore, and that she needs to find a new life with a new perspective maybe?

Ava (Noée Abita) aiming a rifle, with Juan (Juan Cano) standing next to her.

In that sense, I am not sure how great it was that Juan comes from a Romani family. On the one hand, the film is rather faithful in the portrayal of their life and the discrimination they face, on the other hand, there is this stereotype of Romani people being utterly free and unbound by society (which is at odds with the discrimination they encounter) and that the film taps right into.

But whatever you make of its attempts and meanings, it cannot be denied that the film has power. Abita is a fantastic actress, and it is really nice to get a young female character who is abrasive and rude (as a lot of 13-year-olds are), and it’s just a fact, not a judgement. I for one found more that made the film worth it for me than not.

Maud (Laure Calamy) helping Ava (Noée Abita) with her eye make-up.

Summarizing: intriguing indeed.

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