by Katie Hogan
When do we really grow up? Is it when we leave home or start a full time job? Is it when we become responsible for someone else? Is it when we are faced with a life-changing event that we can’t stop? Or do some of us never grow up? Despite being only 13 years old Ava is faced with the inevitable, she will go blind, sooner than she thinks. She handles the news better than her mother, preparing herself even, keeping a diary about her regression. It seems that she is growing up but she is still a teenager. She leaves her baby sibling alone at home while her mother goes on a date, she runs away with an older boy, has her first sexual experience and steals from people at gunpoint on a nudist beach. In some ways she is older than her years but ultimately she wants to grow up too fast.
Ava has retinitis pigmentosa, she looses vision at dusk and is completely blind at night. Knowing that she will loose her sight completely sooner than expected, she keeps a diary. Her single mother has taken her and her younger sibling to the beach for a holiday, but is more interested in the local men than comforting her daughter. Ava becomes interested in a local gypsy boy, Juan, going as far as stealing his dog. After finding him wounded on the beach, she brings him supplies and the two begin a shaky bond, resulting in the two of them going on the run from the police.
Director and writer Léa Mysius’ story plays out almost as calmly as the serene beach resort it is set in. Even the more serious moments in the film are treated as comedic, in particular when Ava and Juan hold up people in the nudist beach disguised naked themselves but covered in clay. This is seen as Ava’s last chance for excitement before she looses her sight. She goes after what she wants, which is at first a dog, then Juan, then freedom from her mother who she does not respect and ultimately freedom from her overbearing problem which she can’t escape, her blindness. Unlike most stories featuring a rebellious teenager, Ava doesn’t change and there is not final showdown. The story hangs in the air as she and Juan drive off into the darkness. We’re left to wonder whether she copes in her new situation or if her mother ever finds her again, not even Ava shows any sign that she’ll be ok. Up until the end, Ava acts like she is grown up enough for what happens but it isn’t the last scene that she understands what growing up really means.
Ava is available now on MUBI
Dir: Léa Mysius
Prd: Jean-Louis Livi
Scr: Léa Mysius, Paul Guilhaume
Cast: Noee Abita, Juan Cano, Laure Calamy
DoP: Paul Guilhaume
Running Time: 105 minutes