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  • Writer's pictureAlex Leptos

REVIEW: 'AVA: A Twist in the Road' (2021), a drama feature by Catherane Skillen

Ava has lived a charmed life with the love of her life for over 25 years. In one instant the unthinkable happens and she loses it all, Bobby, her condo with the amazing art, everything...gone. With no skills to be on her own, she remembers the promise she made her mother years before that she would learn a trade, be self-sufficient, and never depend on a man. She now faces a new journey with the characters that appear as she makes her way.

I think perhaps the seed for this story was planted in my childhood. My mother had a close family friend whose husband died when their three children were pre-teens. She had never worked except for playing the xylophone in an orchestra as a teen and suddenly, as an adult with no skills, she became the breadwinner of her family. They went through very tough times and her plight was used as a cautionary tale to me.
In AVA A TWIST IN THE ROAD I wanted to explore what would happen if the caretaker is removed from the equation. What would someone do later in life having to suddenly fend for themselves? This is the position in which Ava, the title character, finds herself.

- Cahterane Skillen (writer/director/actor)

Outside the Spotlight says: AVA: A Twist in the Road by Catherane Skillen tells the story of the titular character as she navigates well, a twist in the road. That road being figurative of course in this bumpy thing we call life. Ava (Skillen) and her long-time partner Bobby (Bill Lewis) have a loving and healthy relationship. Just like all long-term relationships however, it isn’t perfect. Bobby is away a lot for work and Ava wishes that they spent more quality time together. Suddenly, Bobby passes away and leaves Ava all alone. Having relied on Bobby for literally everything through their life together, this proves very difficult.

Firstly, having an older woman as the focal point of the story is certainly refreshing, as is the portrayal of she and Bobby’s relationship as loving, playful and sexually active just as that of a younger couple, which is something that is often forgotten and not played up as much on the screen.

The narrative is clear and focused with a very straightforward A-B structure but just as the title alludes to, there are twists in the road and the loss of Bobby is not the only one. In addition to all the stress that Ava is facing trying to navigate life without the one person she counted on, Bobby’s son Bob Jr. Ahem, I mean “Robert”, bitter about the fact that his father left his mother for Ava, is trying to make sure that she gets nothing from his father’s estate. At first, this sub-plot was interesting and even felt like the film could take on a thriller quality but it was dismissed rather quickly and ultimately the foundation laid and the characterisation of Robert ended up being unnecessary.

There are certainly some filmmaking wins in AVA and a stand-out scene comes during her attendance at a party that she doesn’t really want to be at. The scene takes on a dream-like quality as Ava is approached by a variety of people all sharing their personal opinions and stories with her, whilst the sounds of conversations and laughter close in creating a claustrophobic feeling which is reflective of what somebody in her situation might feel in a social situation, and will certainly be relatable to anybody who has experienced social anxiety.

There are some good performances here, mainly from Skillen and she manages to elevate those around her who give weaker, but not bad performances. Paired with some questionable editing choices and dated transitions, AVA at times sort of resembles a Sunday afternoon soap opera. Bill Lewis as Bobby is also a standout,

The film isn’t really sure what it wants to be with a shifting tone from light-hearted to depressing with the colour pallet and soundtrack to match. Of course, grief is a big part of the affair and that grief is less suggestive and more in an on the nose “I’m holding this knife and you know what that means!” kind of way. It’s not an issue per se, but it wasn’t totally necessary and seems to really want to make sure that you understand how depressed Ava is, assuming we aren’t already aware of the impact that an event like this can have on a person.

The end comes rather quickly with the runtime clocking in at just 1 hour and 14 minutes. The film fails to deliver a big payoff as one might expect however there is a very nice moment of clarity to close.

Overall, AVA: A Twist in the Road is an interesting but flawed picture with some relatable themes of love, loss but also serves as an important cautionary tale of making sure to take charge of your own life and not rely entirely on somebody else.

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