AVA: A Twist in the Road (2021): Letting Go and Finding Independence
One thing that the mainstream film industry constantly fails to do is make films about older people. Many of the legendary older actors in the industry are often sidelined in favor of the younger generations in most films. And usually, films about older folk are advertised as novelties and are never major releases. Older women have it even worse, often being written off because of their looks and are relegated to specific roles, like the evil stepmother. A range of stories can be told with an older protagonist and older women and AVA: A Twist in the Road shows this off well.
Ava (played by Catherane Skillen) has been in a loving relationship for years with the love of her life, Bobby (played by Bill Lewis). However, things take a turn when Bobby passes away from a sudden heart attack. With Bobby’s son’s spiteful vendetta driving him, Ava finds herself in a crisis. This crisis leaves her to a journey of self-discovery and to now work to secure her future.
This film is anything but a traditional drama. The story beats that are expected of the film don’t happen. There is no actual romantic interest for the lead, and she actually directly turns down opportunities for new relationships. While in most films there would be a fight for Ava to keep her old home, here she chooses not to. Instead of following these plot points, the film goes on a more freeform path where major story and character elements just sometimes happen. The best example is Ava getting a job by conveniently running into a Indian convenience store owner later in the film. Is this a bad thing? Far from it. Movies shouldn’t have to be predictable, because why would I want to see something where I can predict what’s going to happen in the next scene? Although the film doesn’t have a traditional approach, it ultimately succeeds at telling a story about moving on and becoming self-sufficient.
Some of my favorite shots in the film have to be when Ava is grieving in her home after learning of Bobby’s tragic death. Unlike some films that I’ve seen, Ava’s portrayal of grief is very accurate. She shuts herself in away from her friends, drinks her sorrows away and struggles to move on. Meanwhile, her neighbors and friends try to help her move on from Bobby’s death by bringing her food and flowers. Throughout the film, Ava struggles to overcome her loss, as her previous idyllic life begins crumbling around her. It’s only after a rough year that she begins to let go of her grief by selling the bracelet that Bobby gave her and truly begin living her life.
Despite the film’s strengths at portraying grief, there are a few problems I had with it. Some of the film’s dialogue felt a bit too on-the-nose. For example, while the actor for Bob Jr., Steve Dellatori did a good job acting like a grade A asshole, his dialogue felt a bit too forced, and I felt that it let him down a bit. Additionally, some of the lines delivered were a bit weak, such as when Ava found out her car was missing. Speaking of that scene, the following scene did not mesh well with the previous scene at all, and made me feel disoriented. I also felt a few of the scene transitions were a bit too tacky at times and could have been toned down a bit. In one case, a transition showed a second of a previous scene with a homeless old woman before fading to the next scene. What was the purpose of showing the homeless woman during that transition? It could have been an editing error, but it still should have been avoided.
Carrying the film is our lead played by Catherane Skillen. Her performance is both earnest and exceptional, making Ava both relatable and likable. She pulls off both a grieving partner and fish out of water very well. While she doesn’t nail every line delivery, her performance feels very real, something that many actors struggle with. My second favorite performance has to be Tannis Benedict as Ava’s best friend, Leanne. Benedict had probably the best line delivery throughout the film and her dialogue made me believe that she was Ava’s best friend. However, I felt that Louie Mandrapilias as Michael was a bit stiff on his line delivery in his first few scenes, but later noticeably improved in his final scene where he confessed his feelings for Ava.
Overall, AVA: A Twist in the Road is a good film in its general storytelling and overall message. However, its technical side does suffer a bit, which occasionally takes me out of the film. Despite this, the film makes up for this by making Ava a likable protagonist who perseveres through and through, no matter the challenges she faces. Is this film a perfect movie? No, but then again most films are not. But is it worth watching? Yes, I think it’s worth a viewing, especially for those who are either undergoing or have underwent the cycle of grief.
Co-Written by: Michael Li