“ASIA”— An Intimate Drama


An Intimate Drama

Amos Lassen

In “Asia”, Israeli director gives us a  wrenching portrait of maternal love.  Asia (Alena Yiv) is aRussian immigrant mother who is lonely and exhausted  with her daughter Vika (Shira Haas). Sheworks long hours as a nurse at a Jerusalem hospital and is still young and attractive despite her careworn manner. She spends her free time getting drunk at singles bars or having occasional sex with a married doctor colleague (Gera Sandler) in his car

Seventeen–year-old Vika hangs out at a local skate park with her friend Natali (Eden Halili), smoking pot, drinking and flirting with Roy (Or Barak).The first indication of Vika’s health issues come after Natali has taken her to the hospital when alcohol causes a bad reaction with her medication. Her mother has warned her about this but Vika’s natural curiosity about sex and her desire to fit in with her peers causes her to ignore that warning. While Asia is at work one day, Vika is at home with Roy, chugging cognac and making out, until her mood suddenly changes with what could be simple nerves or a physical warning that her body is shutting down.

A doctor’s visit reveals that Vika suffers from a degenerative disorder that already is compromising her motor skills and will eventually affect her breathing,

Where at first there seems almost no communication between Asia and Vika, things begin to change and there are short exchanges. Asia seems understand her daughter’s future when she helps the home-care worker of an elderly neighbor with dementia. Her anxiety over Vika’s condition is influenced by her impatience with the teenager’s disposition.

Vika’s illness gives her very limited mobility. Asia is unable to maintain her hospital workload while caring for her daughter, who refuses to allow her friends to see her, She gets help from young male trainee nurse Gabi (Tamir Mula) whose kindness toward Vika prompts Asia to make an unusual request of him: “There are things I can’t give her that you can.”

Dignity and compassionate humanism in an inescapably bleak scenario comes to the fore and there is a divinely  delicate understatement here,  Asia is fully in touch with her desires whereas Vika’s physical connection may stay unknown. This unspoken communication between a mother and her daughter about the needs of their bodies is something we rarely see on screen.

There are tender moments between the two and we get a somber snapshot of a bond in which the ultimate trust and love are shown where previously there seemed only distance and mutual incomprehension.

There’s an air of something slightly desperate about Asia, accumulated, presumably, down the years as she imagined everything others were doing that she has missed out on while being a young mother to Vika. This is coupled with a sense of longing, a desire for connection, not just in terms of romance, but also with her daughter, with whom she has had only short interactions.

This is a loose and intimate approach to the relationship, that unfolds in moments with a sense of uncertainty about the progression of the illness as it also begins to make its presence felt in the mother/daughter relationship.

Vika begins to need increasing amounts of help but it is the emotional connection between her and her mother does not want to let this happen.  Vika\is never shown as a victim as director Pribar explores how difficult it can be to sustain your own personal rebellion when your body is undertaking a mutiny of its own. This is a kind of coming-of-age for Vika and  a coming-of-maturity for Asia and a reconciliation with loss for both women.

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