Asia (2020) is a movie that is challenging in many ways but has that undeniable pull of a well-crafted story. Writer and director Ruthy Pribar creates a lived-in space for her characters that instills the viewer with a sense of familiarity, yet distance. While watching the film, it would be hard to not feel a connection with Asia (Alena Yiv) and her daughter, Vika (Shira Haas).
Asia is a nurse, resulting in her often working late and leaving her teenage daughter Vika alone quite a bit. Vika spends her time hanging at the skate park, smoking, and drinking with her friends. Though Vika is sick – and as her illness worsens, it makes Asia and Vika confront their relationship and situation. There is a lot of love between them, but the unspoken tension is also strong.
Yiv and Haas give amazing performances in this film. Even in the quiet moments, their performance speaks volumes. Asia is only in her mid-thirties, and it is established that she had Vika quite young. She is walking a tightrope of being a single woman and a dedicated mother, and the two often conflict. Yet, Pribar manages to craft a story that never feels overly-heightened or melodramatic. Despite the intense situations that Vika’s condition puts them in, the film always feels grounded.
There is always an edge of fear, as the film moves on the notion that something crazy will happen. Not to say that there aren’t moments of drama in the film, but it wasn’t ever anything that felt too big. There are several situations that Asia and Vika put themselves in that another writer may have opted to dive into. Fortunately, Pribar shows restraint and demonstrates a real understanding of her characters and the world they live in. This makes Asia feel so realistic – which is both a blessing and a curse, as the film doesn’t pull punches at times.
Asia is currently a part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s online series. It is a very good film that will leave you with some difficult thoughts. You may not be happy at its end, but you can’t deny the craftsmanship behind it. Asia earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.