A psychological thriller that also serves as a political allegory, Iranian-born, Montreal- based filmmaker Foroughi’s striking debut feature, chronicles a troubled teenage schoolgirl in present-day Tehran. Ava (Jabbari) is an accomplished student from a comfortable middle-class background. Her mother Bahar (Bahar Noohian), is a successful doctor and strict disciplinarian; her father Vahid (Aghapoor) is more easy-going and affectionate, but frequently away for work. A keen violinist, Ava wants to abandon her science studies and study music full-time. Her mother disapproves, siting the lack of career opportunities. Dad is typically more open-minded. When her increasingly obsessive mother suspects that Ava is having a secret relationship with her male music partner, she marches her daughter to hospital for a humiliating examination, stretching family bonds to breaking point.
This is an unnerving and rigidly formalistic depiction of suppression and familial dysfunction, which illustrates how feelings of trauma and shame can seep through the generations. Ava’s school is presented like a micro-police state with the head teacher, in a darkly comical touch, wearing white gloves so she remains unblemished by her pupils’ behaviour. Foroughi ramps up Ava’s feelings of paranoia and isolation in the impressive mise-en-scène with character encounters refracted through mirrors, and Ava’s interlocutors blurred out of focus or just out of shot. Jabbari, in her debut role, excels with a compellingly internalised and intense performance.
Ava is available to stream now.
David Willoughby @DWill_Crackfilm