Director: Konstantin Bojanov
Writers: Arnold Barkus, Konstantin Bojanov
Stars: Angela Nedialkova, Ovanes Torosian and Martin Brambach
I would bet if you sat the average film fan down and asked them what they knew about Bulgarian cinema, then they would have been as clueless as I was coming into AVE, Konstantin Bojanov's promising debut film. Indeed Bojanov himself no longer lives in Bulgaria, but returned to tell this story inspired by the death of one of his closest friends at art school.
The film tells the story of Kamen, a young art student who has just discovered that a close friend has killed himself. He decides to hitch from Sophia to Ruse to pay his respects to the family of his friend. No sooner than he starts standing by the road, a girl, Avé, appears beside him and starts to stick her thumb out too. He's annoyed by this. He's even more annoyed when, as a car stops, she manages to join him in the car immediately telling the couple that have stopped for them that they are brother and sister, and telling them that he taught her to smoke when she was 12.
Thus begins this gentle, yet bleak, road movie. Each lift provides Avé with another opportunity to spin a yarn about her and Kamen – stories that are not always to Kamen's liking - and also draws the couple closer together, as both try to escape their own realities and the sense of alienation they feel from their current lives. The viewer and Kamen are also left to decipher where the lies end and truth begins for Avé. Does she have a brother, is she really trying to find him to get him into rehab? When one ride proves to be too much for Kamen it seems our journey is over, but unsurprisingly 'film fate' brings them back together and forces them both towards an ending where they confront death and love.
Like all good road movies this film is about catharsis and characters trying to discover their true selves. It has, thanks to the impressive performances from the two young leads Ovanes Torosyan and Andjela Nedyalkova, a certain innocent charm as both characters wrestle with their feelings, and draw comfort from the existence of a likeminded soul. However, it is lacking an emotional depth that would allow the viewer to truly engage and care about the characters, and therefore lacks any real punch; so whilst you are happy enough the share the ride, you are glad to go your separate ways come the end of the film.
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