Selected for this year’s official competition is Léa Mysius’ striking debut Ava. A film about how the onset of blindness in a thirteen-year-old girl heightens the acuity of her other senses, Ava is as stirring as it is macabre.
Seaside ephemera lightens such weighty subject matters. Crashing waves, beach parasols and some scorching landscape photography reward us with true cinema escapism demonstrating just how much can be achieved with 35mm film stock.
Arriving in this sun-drenched idyll of exposed flesh and banana splits is a huge black wolf-dog that leads Ava to a nearby group of gypsies. Much like the bird Paul sees in the opening to Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, this is a transformative, transcendental moment that catalyses what is to follow – and whether it be fantasy or reality, we are never entirely sure.
The film is compelling in many ways. As a coming-of-age piece, Noée Abita’s turn as a thirteen-year-old girl who is both innocent of the wider world, while also incredibly weary of the life she knows, is highly sophisticated for a first time role.
Ava is also, within its socio-political context, astutely relevant. The sight of black bodies on sea shores is perhaps the most arresting of our times, with the attitudes of France’s increasingly right-wing electorate being expressed by one character Mathias who predicts the end of civilisation. Mysius makes her statement with the literal onset of our heroine’s degenerative condition placed against the metaphorical tunnel vision of a nation.
A coming-of-age drama dark enough that it is truly meant for adults, Léa Mysius has set the LFF competition standards high. We’re keeping our fingers crossed her voice won’t get lost by that of more-established filmmaker Todd Haynes and his depiction of premature sensory impairment in Wonderstruck.
CAST: Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano, Tamara Cano
DIRECTOR: Léa Mysius
WRITERS: Paul Guilhaume, Léa Mysius
SYNOPSIS: When 13-year-old Ava learns she will soon be blind, she decides to face up to it in her own way.