Original Name: Ava
Director: Léa Mysius
Runtime: 105 minutes
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6194530/
While coming-of-age story about young girl who comes to term with her own identity has always been my soft spot (hence the main reason I picked this title), Ava, the debut film from Léa Mysius, is a misfired tale about the titular character on her summer holiday in Cote d’Azur beach. The film features a compelling character in the centre, Ava, a 13-year-old kid who learns that she’s going to be blind soon. Newcomer Noée Abita (she was 17 at the time of the shooting so it justifies all the nudity) plays the role with full commitment, although her character alone can’t save the film from going off the trail in the last half. We start with an eye-candy opening shot of all kind of people lying around the beach. It successfully establishes the beachside settings, and as we follow a black dog makes his way pass all these people to our Ava, our story begins. Ava has many definitive traits: she’s at the age where sexuality becomes awkward, she has trouble connecting with people, she has nightmares that keep her awake at night and most of all, her reduced version worries her.
As a result, Ava hits its stride when it focuses on her dealing with her own situation. When she decides to blind herself to awake her other sense, for example, the sequence has a purpose. Her relationship with her working-class mother, in addition, serves the film well. Those first half comes off as solid story because it still sits on the ground. The same goes for the film’s effort to deal with her struggling with losing her sight in the dark. We could feel her hesitation when the night falls and it parallels greatly with her nightmares (when it’s only darkness). Even to her first nude scene, it plays out with purpose. As she trips off her clothes to go the beach, it’s an image of a teenage girl who comes to term with her sexuality. The camera follows her closely, and we could feel the waves under our feet ourselves.
It’s the latter half when she follows Juan (Juan Calo) that the film loses its purpose and becomes a third-rated Badlands. All the character threads that the film build up before is thrown out of the window. Its downhill begins with the montage where Ava and Juan put the clay all over their naked bodies and steal the tourists’ belongings with gunpoint. Well, this tonal-whiplash could’ve worked if they care to build up before, which they didn’t. Her bad eyesight, in particular, is mentioned but never explored. The beach setting is replaced by road-setting, which feels random and underwhelming. The previous cast is disappeared, and the last arc, which involve a Spanish gypsy wedding, feels pretty much like a detour. It’s a shame given Mysius isn’t quite sure how to tie up her narrative knots, and the more the film moves away from Ava’s grounded concern the less impact it gets. As a result, “Ava” feels wholly incomplete and unrewarding.