Asia is a film that initially presents itself as one that could go in any direction. Ultimately, it opts for a unique kind of stillness as it meditates with poise on the relationship between mother and daughter Asia (Alena Yiv) and Vika (Shira Haas).
The tension between the pair is slight but sharp. Their lives are also articulated by their status as Russian immigrants living in Israel. Yet, like any teenager, Vika does what she knows is bad for her: she drinks; she smokes. However, Vika’s decisions come with a particular peril. Drinking can cause her to go unconscious and smoking hinders her breathing, which she already finds difficult. Her motor skills are deteriorating, but there is little do but wait for her body to inevitably succumb to the disease.
Asia never reaches a clear pressure point. The first half of the film is a purposefully composed puzzle in service of its tragic reveal. The plot wafts in and out of their lives but seems somewhat irrelevant to the film’s schema. Nonetheless, Israeli writer-director Ruthy Pribar is decisive in her choices. She opts to seek out the moments that we don’t usually think to mention when we speak of the story of our lives but which, in the end, make us unique both to ourselves and each other. The feature lags at times but ultimately reveals an authentic and tender snapshot of each character’s existence. Lovely composition by cinematographer Danielle Nowitz captures their lives from the outside in, making the realities of tragic intimate domestic suffering quite poignant against the backdrop of a city.
Asia’s stillness is given life by Shira Haas’ delightful portrayal. Off the curtails of her stellar performance in Netflix’s Unorthodox, the actress flaunts her decisively and tenderly expressive face, leaving viewers at her complete disposal. She sets herself apart as a star audiences will be delighted to see again.
Asia does not have a UK release date yet.