The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - AVIVA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - AVIVA

aviva review
The ups and downs of a couple's relationship are represented through dance.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Boaz Yakin

Starring: Bobbi Jene Smith, Zina Zinchenko, Or Schraiber, Tyler Phillips

aviva poster

Unless they are happening to you then, my god, the break-ups of relationships are so boring. We’ve all been stuck there at the end of a phone, attempting to comfort a bereft pal whose partner has given them the elbow, knowing all the while that there is nothing to say, nothing to be done. Knowing, in fact, that this is inevitable. That relationships which work are valuable and exciting precisely because of their absolute rarity. The committed, enduring and ever-loving relationship just isn’t the natural way of things: as sure as the blossom drops from the spring time branch, infatuation withers away.

This is why most romantically themed films feature the lusty and fresh thrills of new love, and the ones concerning break ups are comparatively scarce: who wants to watch that sort of thing? (Break up songs, however, are conversely amazing).

In his avant garde oddity Aviva, industry vet Boaz Yakin (everything from Dirty Dancing 2 to the screenplay for the Dolph Lundgren Punisher) recognises this axiom, and filters his breakup drama (middle class, boho white people - aren’t they all?) through a kinaesthetic, queer AF kaleidoscope of dance, gender fluidity and loads of shagging. I’m going to go out on an arm waved limb here and say that you won’t see anything else quite like it this year.

aviva review

The opening had me spluttering into my Cosmo. A hall-of-meta voiceover deconstructs the process of film narrative - identifying the cameras the film will be using and suchlike - before a sudden smash cut to the owner of the voice: a woman (the famed choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith) half sitting, half lying upon a bed, completely in the nude, informing us that she is "An actress, I’m acting right now."

The fusion of playful artifice and emotional honesty is striking, and the presentation of the human body, in its imposing, matter of fact beauty, is lovely and refreshing (not just Smith in this bit, but the subsequent diverse male and female nudity that runs through Aviva’s running time like a pulsing vein). Smith’s character (persona?) goes on to explain that she will be playing what is "commonly referred to as a man," in a narrative where the central characters Eden (Smith/Tyler Phillips) and Aviva (Or Schraiber/Zina Zinchenko) will be represented with actors playing both their female and male animas.

aviva review

Plot wise, the couple meet online, hook up, break up, get back together; the tortuosity of the affiliation conveyed through the conflicting ‘sides’ of each character and the vivid expressionism of dance from the quartet of actors and the larger ensemble.

The physicality of dance is matched by several sequences of fairly explicit soft-core activity, wherein the competing animas of either Eden or Aviva offer advice and support during sex like a coach on the sidelines. These scenes are a useful and enlightening contribution to the present discourse concerning gender and sexuality, but, disappointingly, the sex scenes lack variety, and resort most often to missionary stylings (even the male on male sequences). You’re left thinking that if you are going to have your cast in the nip simulating sexual activity, then more could have been done.

aviva review

Similarly, the dance sequences are of the arty style, more shoulders and sway than hips and dips, and occasionally come across like an end of year dance student project. The Brechtian distancing of the diegesis may provide an objectivity to the relationship woes of Eden and Aviva, but it also slightly distances us from the two. While this film should be championed for its originality and imagination, an emotional core is at times not present.

Does Aviva work, ultimately? Well, as a character admits in a mid-point mea culpa, "Fuck consistency over tone. We did it."

Aviva is on UK VOD from April 30th.

2021 movie reviews