Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Movie with Abe: Ayka

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy
Opening TBD

People are born into different circumstances in life. To understand why another person does something requires comprehending their mindset based on what has happened to them throughout their life and what they believe will come from decisions that they must make. Someone who is in survival mode cannot easily escape that condition, constantly trying to get to the next moment in whatever way they can, focusing only on continuing. Such experiences can be extremely harrowing and difficult to endure, but those intent on getting through them will try their hardest to do so.

Ayka (Samal Yeslyamova) is first seen escaping through the window of a maternity ward following the birth of her child. She immediately enters the harsh, snowy Moscow winter, fleeing back to the home in which she and other undocumented immigrants live in close quarters. Receiving frequent phone calls from those who seek to know her whereabouts, Ayka travels back to the places she’s been before and begins a temporary job cleaning a veterinary office to try to piece together enough money to be able to get by. As her past threatens to catch up to her, she finds her body weakening as a result of the separation from her baby, who is, unfortunately, far from her first priority.

This film, from Kazakhstan, is one of the surprise finalists among the nine foreign film entries on the shortlist for this year’s Oscar. Its director, Sergei Dvortsevoy, cited an article about a tremendously high number of babies abandoned in maternity wards by Kyrgyz mothers in Moscow as the inspiration for this story at a screening in Los Angeles. The emphasis on Ayka being miserable in every scene is felt, as she can clearly see how hopeless her situation is yet has no other choice but to persist, with her resilience in the face of unthinkable adversity being her strongest asset.

Yeslyamova, who took home the Best Actress prize for this performance at the Cannes Film Festival, explains that Dvortsevoy made her run before each scene so that they could appear exhausted, and this turn demonstrates an immense commitment to getting into someone else’s skin. Shooting over the course of six years to capture a truly harsh Moscow winter and mixing in as much background sound as possible to overwhelm the viewing experience prove successful in crafting a film that exists so close to its protagonist, forcing its audience to inhabit the same inescapable reality.


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