Boaz Yakin’s Aviva Film Review
Love stories are as old as stories themselves, and today it is difficult to reinvent the cliche “boy meets girl” story. Enter Aviva, the latest release from writer and director Boaz Yakin (The Rookie, Now You See Me, Remember the Titans), who successfully turns the tale as old as time on its head.
Aviva’s official promotional pitch says the film “captures a restless and changing today where who we are as women and men, and how we navigate the world, is up for grabs.” The plot centers around a romantic relationship between Aviva, a woman from Paris, and Eden, a man from New York City who meet through a mutual friend and begin their relationship via email. Eventually Aviva moves to NYC to be with Eden, and the viewer witnesses the trials and tribulations they experience.
Sounds standard enough (and a similar premise to the excellent film Like Crazy featuring the late Anton Yelchin), but Yakin throws a major curveball – Aviva and Eden are alternatively played by both a male and female. Aviva is played by Zina Zinchenko as a female and Or Schraiber as a male, and Eden is played by Tyler Phillips as a male and Bobbi Jene Smith as a female. The switches happen abruptly which can be jarring at first, but it becomes second nature. This creative choice does a clever job of normalizing the concept of gender fluidity.
Aviva adds another fun layer to this premise by having the cast occasionally break into dance sequences, which were choreographed by Smith. The film is not a musical though; the dances serve as an interpretative form of expression about the inner workings of the characters.
While Yakin’s ambitions for the film are impressive, it sometimes falls flat. While Smith plays the female version of Eden, she also appears in scenes with Phillips’ version of Eden. It is hard to decipher if Smith is playing a completely different character or as a representation of Eden’s dual personality. Characters occasionally break the fourth wall, but it feels unnecessary and disrupts the flow of the film.
Aviva and Eden’s relationship becomes messy and dysfunctional, but ends on a very poignant note. Aviva demonstrates that love, like gender, can be fluid. Love can oscillate from feelings of lust to anger, but in the end it’s all feelings.
You can watch Aviva, and other new releases, via the Philadelphia Film Society’s website through their Virtual Theater program. All virtual screening tickets purchased directly support the Film Society.
Aviva is not rated, but features mature themes and sexual content.