This riveting debut drama, shot in Tehran by Canadian Iranian Sadaf Foroughi, and based on her own coming of age, explores the sobering consequences of a 16-year-old schoolgirl’s defiance. The rebellions staged by Ava (Mahour Jabbari) and her friends may seem like standard rites of passage to any teenager, but in the conservative girls’ school they attend, the honour of family and institution are upheld with a fervour that bespeaks deep insecurity. Ava quickly discovers that her parents, who have long encouraged her enquiring spirit and musical flair, may not be impervious to the fear of ostracism.
The empowering influence of Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) is unmistakable in Foroughi’s scrutiny of the intricate dynamics of social entrapment. It’s there, too, in her refusal to soften Ava’s belligerence or pull back on her reflexive needling of those already determined to cut her down to size.
“We’re terrified for Ava, but what comes through, despite her few words, is the character’s strength and courage; it’s a gripping, steely performance, complex and smart in a way you don’t often see teen girls portrayed – anywhere.” — Janet Smith, Georgia Straight