North Bend 2021 Review: ‘Ayar’ is a fascinating experiment

Ayar is another entry into the ongoing oeuvre of COVID-19. Taking place mid-pandemic, it follows a young mother trying to reconnect with her daughter. A simple enough premise, but rather than take the straight path to get there, director Floyd Russ new film opts for something more experimental and experiential, to fascinating results.

Ayar begins in a fairly straightforward manner. Ayar (Ariana Ron Pedrique) returns to her mother’s house to reconnect with her daughter, whom she gave up to pursue stardom in Vegas some years before. She is rebuffed and devastated; she returns to the motel where she has been living to figure out a plan to get back into her daughter’s life. The more the film progresses, the less straightforward it becomes.

Through the first half, there are hints that more is going on than you might think. A series of vines grow out of the corners of sets and frames, intruding on the picture in a spot-on metaphor for the pandemic itself. The film also flashes back to different points in Ayar’s life to highlight her parents’ immigration to America, as well as the circumstances in which she became pregnant and gave up her child.

Then, about halfway through the film, it becomes something else entirely. A supporting character whom Ayar is confiding in looks directly a the camera and chides the audience for their escapism, and things only go off the rails from there. The rest of the film is intercut with more flashbacks but also interviews with the cast about their journeys and excerpts from their audition tapes.

Is all this experimentation successful? Honestly, not entirely. It’s a little jarring, and probably will be even if you know what’s coming, but the film is held together by Pedrique, who gives her all to the performance as Ayar. She does everything, and anything the script –which she co-wrote– asks of her and does so with gusto and real emotion. It’s not the kind of performance that will make her a breakout star in North America, but it’s exactly the kind of performance that will get her the role that will become that.

Ayar won’t be the film for everyone, its experimental nature may put more casual viewers off, but it’s a fascinating experiment none the less and one that is definitely worth seeking out to experience.

Ayar is playing for US audiences as part of North Bend Film Festival through July 18th. There is no Canadian release information at this time.


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