Eva Nová

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Eva Nova
"Skop has made documentaries in the past and he and Vásáryová are alive to small gestures."

It has been a great couple of years for older actresses in lead role character studies, from the raw self-scrutiny of Mirjana Karanovic's Good Wife to Sonia Braga's fiercely independent Clara in Aquarius and now we can add Emília Vásáryová's magnetic performance as an ageing recovering alcoholic to the list.

Reflections and performance are key this debut fiction feature from director Marko Skop. Eva (Vásáryová) was once an in-demand actor, the world, presumably, at her feet. Now, she's out of work and alone, her husband having left her for a much younger woman, and hoping her third stint in rehab is going to prove the charm.

She has plenty of time for self-scrutiny, often sitting in the shadow of a photo of her younger self in her small apartment or examining her face in mirrors, adding a slick of bright lipstick to cover up her dread. Her concern about her appearance suggests a level of vanity, no doubt fed by years when looking good was necessary for work, but it also reveals a vulnerability, as she grapples with her sense of self.

Tipping away the last of a stash of vodka and refusing to answer the door to her neighbour - a willing partner in drunkeness - she steels herself to try to reconnect with her estranged son Dodo (Milan Ondrík) and his family, as well as her sister Manka (Zofia Martisová), who became his surrogate mother during Eva's wilderness years. At the same time, she makes tentative steps to reconnect with the world outside the bottle, taking a job stacking shelves in a supermarket. She practices her apology to Dodo in the mirror, working the words like a mantra in a bid to achieve maximum sincerity. The irony is, of course, that this is no performance.

You can almost smell the tang of the burnt bridge when she turns up on her son's doorstep, let inside by his careworn wife Helena (Anikó Varga) and immediately facing a wall of anger and resentment from her sister and son, who we soon learn may have inherited his mum's taste for alcohol. Skop has made documentaries in the past and he and Vásáryová are alive to small gestures - the way Eva's hand shakes when she becomes particularly nervous or the betrayal of pent-up emotion in the smoothing of a table cloth. Ondrík has the less showy role but he underlies his outbursts with sadness and thinly veiled self-disgust.

The wardrobe from Erika Gadus also displays great colour coding, showing through dress how hard it is for Eva to accept the modern directorial urge to show "less emotion" - from her regular choice of purple, starkly contrasting with the more drab palette elsewhere, right down to the moment where she, in a flamboyant red outfit that recalls Carmen, meets her husband's new wife sporting an altogether more sophisticated dress but in the exact same shade.

Eva is flawed but Skop makes sure we see her dogged determination, even as she makes the wrong choices, as she tries to pick a path towards redemption. She is never excused for past behaviour but we come to learn, by degrees, what may have led to some of it. There's also a real sense of the world that the characters inhabit, with the life choices faced by Helena and her family in order to put bread on the table, showing that problems can be caused by societal issues as much as those within a family unit.

Skop also shows just how hard it is for an alcoholic who is alone to stick to sobriety - it's heartbreaking when we see Eva laughing and truly relaxed for the first time in the knowledge that the only way she has achieved that momentary pleasure is by hitting the bottle. As she strips herself back to her most vulnerable, we will her to succeed in her final step.

Reviewed on: 08 Nov 2016
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A glimpse into an ageing woman’s oppressive world where alcohol is quickening the process of decline.


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