Director Léa Mysius’s feature debut, Ava, has been on an awards roll. After winning best SACD Feature at Cannes and being nominated for the first feature competition at the London Film Fest, interest picked up for this curious coming of age tale, in a year that is full and plentyful of female teenager perspectives.
Ava (Noée Abita) is a 13-year old French girl who, while on holiday with her mother and small sister, finds out she is soon going to lose her ability to see in low light – which means complete blindness is not as far away as she thought. While her mother decides to act as if nothing is happening (determined to give her “the best summer ever”, though ending up distracted by a new lover), Ava decides to steal herself a dog, which leads her to meet Juan (Juan Cano), a young man on the run.
There’s something of Eric Rohmer in Ava – where summer and romance intertwine, with strong symbolic images thrown in for good measure. The script – which apparently was Mysius’ graduation screenplay at the Femis Film School – is simple and straightforward, with an open ending that many will find unsatisfying, and yet the way it is shot (in stunning 35mm by cinematographer and co-writer Paul Guilhaume) makes it so much more than its story. These are the last images that Ava will ever see. This is also the story of Ava’s first love – not for the ideal, right boy, but for the worst option available around. From the moment “Lupo” (Juan’s black dog) enters the scene, we know (by its blackness and the music that scores its entry) something terrible is bound to happen. It will takes us a while to find out that something is Ava becoming an adult.
Most of the actors – including Abita – are first timers, and that gives the film a rawness that goes almost against its careful mise-en-scène. The scene where the young lovers go on a tribal Bonnie & Clyde feast upon the naked beach tourists will stay with you long after you finish watching the film, but Ava has many other scenes that, not being as flashy, show an impeccable sense of directing and staging – the bathroom scene where Ava compares herself with her mother, Ava’s first kiss, or when the teen calls on other children to watch her mother in the middle of a passionate thrust with her new boyfriend being a few examples.
Spellbinding, Ava is a great companion piece/European sister to Lady Bird, and is definitely worth a check for those needing some unusual summer teen romance in their lives.
Ava is now available to watch online in the UK as part of the 8th edition of MY FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL, which will be running until 19th February – www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com.