Returned to the world after four months under ISIS captivity, war reporter Gabriel (Roman Kolinka) comes back to Paris a man transformed and ill at ease with the haunting familiarities and the discomfiting changes that manifest in his new life.

For its first 30 or so minutes, director Mia Hansen-Løve’s Maya is one particular type of film, and a very good one at that. It is submerged in the harsh, chilly greys of a France gripped by winter and it slowly, surely starts plumbing the depths of Gabriel’s mental state. Kolinka breathes earnest life into moments of gruff stoicism and rending vulnerability, with enough nuance that the two flow naturally together.

It’s a sensitive, gorgeous deconstruction of masculinity in the wake of trauma as Gabriel tries – and fails – to jump back into his old life, and a relationship that was already on the rocks before his kidnapping in Syria.

Following Gabriel as he packs up and moves to the Goa costal region of India, the film gently changes gear entirely, transforming into a tender travelogue about a man adrift who may be better off never weighing anchor.

Youthful Maya (a wholly captivating Aarshi Banerjee) crosses his path in this second portion – which suddenly explodes with the lush, gorgeous colours of a wondrous corner of the world – and their journeys, both shared or otherwise, are given breadth and knotty complexities that give the film a sharper hook than any conventional romance.

With her sixth feature, Hansen-Løve is doing a lot all at once and, somehow, doing it all wonderfully. It’s a sticky, tricky and unabashedly pretty film spinning a lot of plates in the air. Maya’s success is a deft, technically awesome balancing act – but its real success is that you don’t notice the act is happening at all.



CAST: Roman Kolinka, Aarshi Banerjee, Suzan Anbeh, Alex Descas

DIRECTOR: Mia Hansen-Løve

WRITERS: Mia Hansen-Løve

SYNOPSIS: Maya follows a 30-year-old man named Gabriel, a French war reporter who was taken hostage in Syria and then heads to India after months in captivity.