• Sebastian Mann

Ava (2021) review

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

A young woman adrift in her memories finds comfort in the past in Simone Neviani’s lonely sci-fi short film…

It’s not until a few minutes in before we see Ava (Caera Beightol), whose memories form the film’s connective tissue. Her disembodied voice narrates the opening montage of little moments, remembering how Devon (Jessica Maree King), a former friend and object of desire, would dance, laugh and smile on the beach of Australia. Cinematographer Paul van Kan’s intimate photography immediately evokes the soft sci-fi dreaminess of something like Spike Jonze’s Her, a similarly lonely conceptual romance.

Using an astral device (voiced HAL 9000-style by Stephen Mahy), an esoteric machine that allows users to exit their corporeal body and enter an ‘astral body,’ Ava relives an afternoon with Devon. It’s not clear how long ago it was, just that they most likely haven’t seen each other since.

It’s a film perhaps better experienced than completely understood

While Ava is not the most original film or concept - taking a large chunk of its aesthetic influences from Charlie Brooker’s mind-bending Black Mirror - it manages to work thanks to its simplicity.

It’s a film that lends itself well to repeat viewings. That may be true - certainly, a second viewing does illuminate some of its mysteries - but it’s a film perhaps better experienced than completely understood. Its ambiguities, as it charts that imperceptible line between reality and imagined fiction, are its greatest strengths.

A lot of the film’s key moments rest on Beightol’s subtle expressions, her almost vacant yet knowing stare. Sparsely underpinning the drama is composer Daniele Caretta’s ambient score, which conjures melancholy before daring to break out into a plucky and triumphant salvo as things begin to make sense.