Sadaf Foroughi’s draws on her own experiences growing up in Iran for her debut feature, Ava. Now available to stream in the UK, the film follows Ava (portrayed with impressive conviction by Mahour Jabbari), a teenage girl in attendance at an all girls school in Tehran, as she navigates waters social, sexual and scholarly. Ava practices her violin, eavesdrops on her parents, gossips with her friends and makes a bet that she can get a boy to go out with her.
The film is handsomely put together, with static, impeccably-framed shots of beautifully appointed middle-class rooms, and slow patient scenes that convey a society bumping up against conservative mores. At school, teachers scare students with tales of pregnant peers, while the students themselves frankly discuss the practicalities and consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.
Problems emerge for Ava when she deceives her mother and sneaks out for a walk with her crush, only to be rumbled and dragged to a gynaecologist. When her mother — a doctor at a local hospital — begins to restrict Ava’s freedom, she acts out further, causing problems with her social circle, and the school administration.
Foroughi sometimes strains to depict a universal teenage experience, before plotting Ava a course that ruffles enough feathers to allow the film to comprehensively sketch out the various barriers that she faces. Ultimately though, Ava is sympathetic to its characters and their situations, allowing even the ostensible villains generosity and understanding.
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