Truth and Movies

Asia

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Ruthy Pribar

Starring

Alena Yiv Shira Haas Tamir Mula

Anticipation.

Premiered at a low-key Tribeca Film Festival as lockdown began.

Enjoyment.

Its sensitively wrought tensions sneak up on you slowly.

In Retrospect.

Sets itself a modest target and hits it dead on. A good film.

This low-key but effective tearjerker sees a young mother become caregiver to her ailing daughter.

The frail bond between a young mother, Asia (Alena Yiv), and her 17-year-old daughter, Vika (Shira Haas), is strengthened and enhanced during this sensitive domestic drama by Israli director Ruthy Pribar. Asia is a nurse and single mother who gave birth to her daughter at a young age. As such, she still yearns to have a full and eventful private life, and so when she tells Vika she’s working a night shift, that usually means she down the discotheque necking boilermakers and romping with married colleagues in cars.

Meanwhile, the reserved, angular Vika dosses around in skateparks and has reached the point where she’s ready to dip her toe into the warm water of boys, soft drugs and booze. The pair are a little like ships in the night, occasionally passing one another in their dimly lit apartment, sharing a few dutiful grunts and idle pleasantries. Asia clearly doesn’t want to be a mother, while Vika seems to cherish not having to endure the swaddling confines of traditional family life.

Then comes the twist, and it’s revealed that Vika has a degenerative disorder whose symptoms have taken hold right at the point where life is supposed to get interesting. With a minimum of fuss, Asia becomes nursemaid to her ailing offspring and, as a result, the pair begin to realise that they have more in common than they thought, and their love for one another begins to blossom anew. It is a film which sees caregiving as the ultimate expression of sincere compassion, and it argues its case well.

If this reads like a cheesy, made-for-TV melodrama, then that couldn’t be further from the truth: director Pribar tamps down the natural hysteria of such a situation and presents it as one of life’s natural processes, albeit an extremely melancholy one. Vika’s condition forces a new kind of intimacy between the pair, though the actors never push things too far to milk unearned sentimental wins.

Even though its stripped-back, ultra-functional nature as well as the simplicity of its execution don’t really offer much that is new or exciting, it’s a model of rigour when it comes to this subtle, less-is-more mode of dramatic filmmaking.

Published 20 Nov 2020

Tags: Asia Ruthy Pribar

Anticipation.

Premiered at a low-key Tribeca Film Festival as lockdown began.

Enjoyment.

Its sensitively wrought tensions sneak up on you slowly.

In Retrospect.

Sets itself a modest target and hits it dead on. A good film.

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