On the surface, Tate Taylor’s Avais another solid action film with a strong leading woman. The genre is alive and well with films like Atomic Blonde leading the charge. While Ava contains elements of a classic action film, at its core, the film is about family. The relationship dynamics expressed between the characters are front and center. Stellar performances by a stacked cast drive home the family narrative.
More Than the Action
The theme of family is strong throughout the entire film. While the story maintains a focus on Ava herself, her relationships propel the story. The first relationship we deal with is between Ava (Jessica Chastain) and Duke (John Malkovich). We get a clear sense that the two have been together for a long time. The relationship dynamic between them is one of a father/daughter. While their relationship has a professional element to it, there is genuine care and affection between them.
Ava’s relationship with her immediate family is another critical element in the film. We find out that she has become estranged from her family after leaving unexpectedly. She has a somewhat rocky relationship with her sister, dating Ava’s ex Michael (Common). Her relationship with her mother (Geena Davis) is the most strained, and she resents her. As the film develops, that relationship eventually heals and propels Ava to do whatever it takes to protect her family. Her ties to family and Duke set up the ultimate climax of the film and put her on the end path.
What makes the character relationships soo interesting in this film is the actors and their performances. The film features massive talent across the board. Jessica Chastain is front and center. She handles all the action but also delivers a strong yet vulnerable nuance to the character. She never feels superhuman, and her vulnerability gives Ava a compelling depth. John Malkovich has a very even-keeled and measured performance. He brings an element of experience and warmth that enhances Duke’s relationship with Ava. Geena Davis, as Bobbi, is another strong performance. She offers a cold, witty detachment but then slowly warms as the story develops. Common rounds out the stellar cast of family members. His performance as Michael gives a level of history and affection for Ava. At the same time, he brings out her insecurities and character flaws.
The interesting family dynamics, along with stellar performances, push Ava beyond the typical action flick.