Even though the central characters of most coming-of-age films may not start out as nice or good, they almost always eventually end-up that way. Whatever life has thrown at them, they have an unerring capacity to come out the other end and embark on a hopeful future. Not so the case in Léa Mysius’ ridiculously assured feature debut. In Ava, her titular lead is truculent in the beginning and becomes more determinedly strong-willed from there.
Ava (Noée Abita) is a 13-year-old girl who has recently been told that she will shortly lose here sight. Her mother (Laure Calamy), not one to actually face the harsh realities of life, decides that the pair (and her baby sister) will go on holiday to the seaside and promises that they will have ‘the best summer ever’. Ava is unconvinced. When her mother blithely tries to ignore her impending blindness, spending much of her time with a toy boy (Daouda Diakhate), this turns to disdain and anger. A chance encounter with a black dog on the beach leads her into the path of Juan (Juan Cano), a bad boy on the run from the authorities.
Filmed in suitably grainy 35mm film, Mysius has created a spell-binding anti coming-of-age film which bristles and prickles with angst and energy. Noée Abita is electrifying as Ava. As she sees her life before her slipping away, she no longer has a reason to behave in any way, shape or form. Belligerence turns into rage. There’s a steely determination to cast her inhibitions aside and defy the world. Meanwhile, her mother is too caught up in her own unsatisfying life to notice. Ava is a beautifully shot, exquisitely directed and daringly acted drama which introduces two exciting young talents to the world.
Ava screens at London Film Festival on 5,7 & 9 October.