REVIEW: Aya [2012]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 40 minutes | Release Date: 2012 (Israel)
Director(s): Oded Binnun & Mihal Brezis
Writer(s): Oded Binnun, Mihal Brezis & Tom Shoval

“Never follow your heart”

It’s nice to take the road less traveled for adventure no matter how wild or tame the unknown journey becomes. That goes for those jumping headfirst and those unwittingly brought along. Because even if you didn’t intend for the unplanned sojourn, you cannot deny its allure once it’s begun. We take stock of the situation, weighing good against bad before ultimately deciding whether the risk is worth any potential gain. For Aya (Sarah Adler), kidnapping a tourist could end in criminal charges if the victim does not understand the adrenaline rush. For Thomas Overby (Ulrich Thomsen), accepting a stranger’s invite of pure, platonic human connection could potentially leave him dead by the side of the road. Looking at their chance encounter objectively, however, only proves just how often we willingly place our trust in those we don’t know.

Written by Mihal Brezis, Oded Binnun, and Tom Shoval (and directed by the former two), Aya is a unique look at two wandering souls letting inhibitions rule to their own surprise. Aya tries to say no to a driver asking her to hold a sign at the airport while he moves his car because she’s waiting for her own traveler to arrive. When given the chance to think, though, something about the mystery of who would come first awakens a gamesmanship relish lost years earlier as a little girl. Life had always brought answers before allowing confusion to overrule order—why would things change now? She’s so certain the person she awaits will exit the plane first to propel her back to normalcy, but fate in this instance brings the wonder of the unfamiliar instead.

There are a lot of unknowns both for the characters and us watching. Will Aya admit to Thomas that she isn’t his driver? Will her doing so leave them at an irrevocable stalemate or find them conducive to the awkward thrill of unexpectedness? And what about the person she was meeting before she turned on a whim to transport someone else’s customer to Jerusalem for no reasons other than excitement? We wonder whether we’d have the guts to do what she does, to take a step out of our lives and see what awaits a fresh slate. It’s not about being wanted, desire, or anything more than a yearning for a reprieve. We take the chance so effortlessly as children yet shy from it completely as adults despite comparable new friendships and connections forever waiting in the wings.

I do unfortunately question the execution of this intriguing idea simply because I wonder if it was fleshed out enough to accept the trajectory these characters follow. It does because there’s no shred of forced romance or salaciousness for the sake of notoriety over authenticity, but also doesn’t considering the blatant manipulations of the story’s structure. I love that we know nothing and are able to watch Aya and Thomas with untainted eyes or interpretations, but the fact I needed to know answers tells me something wasn’t quite perfect. Never did I feel a quietness in my mind to let the actions onscreen unfold in their own time and I admit that’s probably my fault. But while it’s a tad too neat to be a masterpiece, it definitely provides an attractive and memorable venue for curiosity’s checked appetite.

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