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Bobbi Jene Smith and other dancers star in romance blending choreography and narrative wizardry; the outcome is boisterous, energetic and somewhat messy - on VoD on Friday, April 30th

Aviva and Eden meet online. Eden is based in New York, Aviva is based in Paris. One day, they finally meet in person, but their encounter isn’t as straightforward as they anticipated. Sex is passionate and abundant, but so are the mixed emotions, and they come to the tragic and yet inevitable conclusion that they know very little about each other. Should they forge ahead with their relationship anyway?

This trivial love story is in reality multiplied by four. Four couples altogether, each one of them made up of one Aviva and one Eden. Bobbi Jene Smith and Tyler Philips play Eden, while Zina Zinchenko and Or Schraiber play Aviva. In addition to two actors of different sexes playing the characters, at one point they also swap partners, and we end up with one gay and one lesbian couple. Two times two equals four. A comment on gender fluidity? Yes. Confusing? Yes indeed.

This audacious yet messy romance is highly boisterous and energetic, and it challenges just about every cinematic convention. A naked Bobbi Jene Smith breaks the fourth wall in the first sequence. Unrelated dance numbers sprout out of nowhere, plus the story zigzags back and fourth across the Atlantic and also in time to Aviva and Eden’s childhood (with yet more professionals, namely child actors, playing Aviva and Eden).

All the actors – including the children – are dancers. The dance acts are bursting with passion and expression, and they are indeed the engine of the film. The same can’t be said about the acting. Not all the dancers make good thespians. Their line delivery is often contrived and stilted (Bobbi Jene excluded), stirring very little emotion from audiences. And there are a lot of lines. This is a highly conversational endeavour. In fact there is too much of just about everything: too much dance, too much talk, too much sex, too much music, etc. This is a highly ambitious movie. It works for the first 30 minutes. Then it becomes banal and repetitive. The abundance of narrative devices is intended to be inspiring but it ends up alienating viewers.

The human body is central to narrative, and its depiction is very explicit. Parents have sex in front of their child, a child urinates, and there are brief flashes of pornography. Yet it never slips into vulgarity. Sex is conversational yet acrobatic and energetic, even balletic. On the other hand, Aviva does slip into body stereotypes. All the bodies are chiseled, the smiles picture-perfect, the youth exuberant. An old lawyer is depicted naked for literally one second. That’s the only moment the film avoids highly conventional beauty standards. This is probably intentional. Presumably, the name Eden is supposed to evoke paradisiacal sensations.

All in all, Aviva is worth a viewing for it for its formal audacity. Its duration is 115 minutes, however, is a bit too long. The ending isn’t particularly rewarding. What’s intended to be a grand finale feels predictable and banal.

Aviva is out on various VoD platforms on Friday, April 30th.

By Victor Fraga - 29-04-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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