Aviva, My Love
March 20, 2008
Stoic and dependable Aviva Cohen is the rock in her family’s life. Her husband is unemployed and, consequently, feeling humiliated. Her teenage daughter, who serves in the Israeli army, is rebellious. Her teenage son is suffering from erectile dysfunction. Her mother, who lives nearby, is unstable and a constant source of embarrassment. Her father is remote. And Aviva’s married sister, her closest confidant, is also a nudge.
Such a group could drive anyone to distraction, but for Aviva, this nerve-wracking group also provides the inspiration to write. And she is, by all indications, a gifted writer. From her cramped apartment in Tiberias, she pens poignant, insightful tales that grip anyone who is lucky enough to read one. Although middle-aged, Aviva clearly holds dear the hope and dream that she can one day get published.
That ambition is what drives her — and this moving film. In the middle of washing dishes, Aviva will write thoughts on scraps of paper. She does the same thing while at her part-time job in the kitchen of a hotel. Her writing is an all-consuming passion — her stories are a window into her soul. But as she — and the audience — will discover, getting published can be fraught with unexpected peril.
A key to success, she believes, is a class she takes with an established author, a man who had one big-selling book a decade before and has since lived off the fame. She meets with him to review her work, seeking encouragement, writing tips, and, most of all, connections to a book contract. He offers insights, flourishes, and hope.
This keeps Aviva going through the chaos that otherwise characterizes her days. Except for her youngest son, who appears to be about 12, everyone else in her immediate circle is so filled with drama that, most of the time, she can only laugh at their absurdities and eccentricities. But it isn’t always easy, especially when her husband grows despondent and finds her sister increasingly attractive. Or when her son’s therapist suggest he overcome his sexual failings by visiting a nudist beach in the Sinai.
But as long as she is writing, Aviva can cope. Unlike most of her family, she has inner strength. She helps her sister, Anita, deal with infertility and a strained marriage. She maintains a sense of order in the little box the Cohen family calls home. And she routinely and devotedly visits her mother, cooking meals and offering solace, despite the increasingly odd behavior the old woman displays.
Then one day, her mentor, Oded, makes her an offer that turns her inside out. Without revealing too much, Aviva is given an opportunity that will provide her with badly needed money. But if she accepts, it will also amount to selling a part of herself, in effect, selling her soul. The choice is excruciating, and Aviva, stoic and dependable, grapples to no end.
Her decision leads to a terrible secret that nearly suffocates her. Only after her daughter learns the secret does Aviva realize she must confront Oded to undo the damage. In doing so, Aviva reclaims her life and can once again write.
There is a poignant ending to this intelligent film, which nicely captures the human spirit. The story line is thoroughly believable, the acting smart, the directing imaginative. In all, Aviva, My Love is a compelling story about one woman’s desire to recognize her potential, as well as her boundaries, as she strives to find meaning in her life. It is an uplifting story, even as it mirrors life with bouts of depressing scenes, because Aviva is such an appealing and intriguing character. In that way, she offers us all not only a role model, but a useful life lesson.
Ed Silverman is the editor of Pharmalot.com.
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