Ava: A Twist In The Road
26 May 2022
Catherane Skillen, Bill Lewis, Steve Dellatori
A woman’s life is turned upside down in Ava: A Twist in the Road, the debut feature of director and star Catherane Skillen which, unlike its protagonist, never quite finds its own path.
When her long-term partner Bobby (Bill Lewis) suddenly passes away, Ava (Skillen) is left devastated, depressed, and unexpectedly destitute. No formal records exist of the pair’s relationship, leaving all of Bobby’s possessions and funds to his bitter son Robert (Steve Dellatori), who blames Ava for destroying his parent’s marriage. With the help of friends Leanne (Tannis Benedict) and Trisha (Maggie Dewan-Smith), she works to build herself a new life.
There is something refreshing in Ava’s story of an older woman casts into unfamiliar surroundings, seeking to forge a new path in life despite her advancing years. It’s a shame however that the film fails to decide what it really wants to be. Tonally, it’s bipolar – swerving from harrowing drama to light-hearted feel-good film from scene to scene like a drunken shopping cart. A comedic scene of Ava’s first day on a job is followed by a sorrowful one in which she gives away money she desperately needs to a homeless person. Whilst this could have been effective to some degree as a representation of the grieving process, it comes across as awkward, uncomfortable and confusing to the viewer given the regularity of the atmospheric shifts, and both the drama and the comedy are weakened by each other’s presence.
The story is confusing and unsatisfying, and fails to really explain the context behind Ava’s relationships with key characters or give any real conclusions. Robert is almost psychopathically hateful of Ava for her relationship with his father. But given that this relationship lasted 25 years, it’s confusing that Ava appears shocked at his behaviour following Bobby’s death (she also probably should have learned not to call him ‘Bobby Jr.’ by now…). Little conclusion is given to several storylines that are raised, such as Robert’s fraudulent efforts to secure his father’s property or his lawyer’s resignation – which given the level of focus these receive early on, is quite frustrating.
The script is poor, with a total absence of subtext as characters directly stating their desires and primary emotions as a baseline manner of communication that makes every line feel scripted and unnatural. Solid performances would have been unlikely to save this, but the film lacks these too. Catherane Skillen does a good job with more emotionally draining scenes as Ava, but basic conversations come across as rehearsed and forced. Her chemistry with Bill Lewis as her onscreen partner is non-existent, and audiences will struggle to believe that these supposedly star-crossed lovers were truly meant to be. Steve Dellatori yells a lot – but his Robert lacks any nuance that could have pointed to an inner conflict that would add dimension and intrigue to the character.
There are some highlights, such as a tear-jerking scene of Ava wondering around the house her and Bobby shared with each other on the night of his death, reliving old memories. Ava’s first day working at a kiosk also delivers the film’s message that there is more to life than riches – and more scenes like this would have been welcome. It feels at times like the story is on the verge of a grand revelation about how older women are treated by society, and how older unmarried partnerships come with risks where callous family members are concerned. But it disappointingly never really breaks new ground with this thread.
There is passion and originality in Ava: A Twist in the Road, but the film falls frustratingly short of delivering the basics of story, script and character. This film needs to find its own path before Ava can find hers.