Review by Sean Boelman
Writer-director Boaz Yakin’s experimental romance Aviva is among the year’s most unconventional and bizarre films and will undeniably divide audiences because of its aberrant content. However, Yakin’s vision is definitely a singular one with plenty to provoke and challenge the audience.
The movie tells the story of two international lovers who go through a tumultuous romance after meeting online. At its core, the film is a melodramatic but insightful romance made about the modern generation. Without Yakin’s unique stylistic flairs, the movie arguably would have worked best as a time capsule of relationships in the modern world.
However, the thing about the film that makes it stand out is that each of the two leads is played by two different performers: one male and one female. With this, Yakin offers a deconstruction of gender dynamics in the modern world (both implied and directly stated). At first, it can be a bit much to keep up with, but once Yakin finds his rhythm, it works perfectly.
That isn’t to say that the movie is without its issues, though. By trying to capture the male-female dichotomy, Yakin implies some things that aren’t as progressive as the film seems at first glance. The most problematic of these mistakes is that the movie inadvertently defines some characteristics as male and some characteristics as female.
The intended statements about the fluidity of identity and personality are really pretty profound, but the film lends itself a bit too eagerly to deeper analysis, and at a certain point, some of its well-meaning does begin to fall apart when put under a microscope. Even though it never quite reaches the level of exploitation, its sincerity doesn’t always come across.
There are also some meta elements throughout the movie that have mixed results. Many audiences, particularly those who are not as accustomed to experimentation like this, may find the near-constant fourth-wall-breaking to be too weird for their tastes. Others may not like the direct approach that Yakin takes to his themes.
The merits of this film that are undeniable, though, are its dance sequences that are phenomenally choreographed. The cast is made up of professional dancers, not professional actors, and the movie even acknowledges the reasoning behind this decision. Still, it pays off with some gorgeous performances.
Aviva is markedly not a film for everyone, and it isn’t without its fair share of flaws. Still, the level of ambition, skill, and heart that is on display here is obvious, and at the very least, it should be recognized for that.
Aviva is now streaming online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.