Ága, co-written and directed by Milko Lazarov, is a new slice-of-life film that is among the most gorgeous you will see all year. Although the meandering pace of the story will likely be trying for some audiences, the beautiful cinematography makes it a movie that is absolutely worth watching.
The film follows a couple living on the icy tundra as the world changes around them and one of them faces illness, sending the other on a journey to reconnect with their daughter who left years ago. The movie’s environmentalist messages are not too subtle — mysterious animal deaths and melting ice play a significant role in the film — but they are delivered impactfully by this simple yet effective story.
The thing that is likely to put off most potential viewers to this movie is the slow pacing. Although the film is never boring, there are long sequences with minimal dialogue and a lot of the movie is comprised of watching the characters go about their daily routines. It takes about an hour before the actual plot begins to kick in, but that first hour is where a majority of the most meaningful messaging comes across.
However, one area in which the film could have improved is its character development. Over the course of the movie, we do eventually come to appreciate the characters and the struggles that they are facing, but the movie lacks the personal touch which separates the good slice-of-life films from the great ones.
Nevertheless, the actors do an excellent job in their roles. Mikail Aprosimov and Feodosia Ivanova both give very naturalistic and believable performances. The chemistry that the two of them have together is excellent, and they are able to give the movie a much-needed grounding. A significant part of why the film is watchable despite the crawling pace is that Aprosimov and Feodosia light up the screen.
Because of the actors’ strong performances, the movie is able to have the intended emotional impact despite the not always effective character development. The final scene, in particular, resonates quite well. Granted, those who are unable to get absorbed into the film’s world early on may not feel the same attachment, but for the most part, it is an effective scene.
Of course, it is on a visual level that this movie succeeds the most. The cinematography is phenomenal, taking full advantage of the beautiful tundra setting to create shots that are thoroughly appealing to the eye. Since the story may fail to capture the attention of some audience members, it is nice that the visuals likely will.
Ága may have some narrative issues, but those shortcomings are largely masked by the wonderful performances and visuals that the film has to offer. Though its future will likely remain with its core niche art house audience, this movie will be remembered by those who are meant to enjoy it.
Ága opens in theaters on September 6.