The film opens on a captivating woman, she waits, but we do not know what for. As disappointment and longing fill her eyes, the expected partner finally arrives. Galia Barkol opens her feature debut pulling no punches on what its like to be lost in the middle of life.
MIA is a story about a young immigrant woman who has escaped to New York following a dance career ending injury. Mia, played by Barkola herself, navigates the mysterious town as she tries to find herself as her future is now up for grabs. She flirts with another art form, origami, and tries to form an unlikely friendship with the man whose apartment she is subleasing, but she never seems to capture the fulfillment her soul is in desperate need of.
MIA is intriguing, even if at times you aren’t sure what is going on. The character and the situation, while unique to Mia, are universally felt. There are moments of confusion, trying to figure out where the placement of these situations fit into the grand scheme of things. Yet, if you stop trying to place the film in a restrictive formula, you realize that the film flows freely like life.
At times it’s hard to keep track of time as the days continue, which is something we can all experience when we are at an impasse. The days stream together on film, causing Mia to get lost in her day to day existence. As she communicates to her father, he too, is confused as to what she has been doing. It’s a feeling we are all too familiar with in the states, and it was comforting knowing that mid-life unease can cross cultures. Life sometimes has other plans than what you have worked towards.
While the lack of structure has its reassuring moments, the connective tissue of lost souls is lost between Mia and the audience. Maybe it’s because we have been trained to expect structure in films, but after a bit you lose interest. It’s hard enough dealing with our own lost feelings, it’s too heavy to deal with others on screen.
What is interesting, though, is just as you are about to move on, you are engulfed back in when Mia agrees to see her friend Ana. Ana, it turns out, is a friend and fellow dancer from the Israeli company that brought her to New York. It’s through this conversation that the true situation surrounding Mia’s circumstances comes to light.
Retroactively the structure is laid out, and the true meaning being Mia’s actions are understood. One begins to piece situations together, and you realize the journey she is on, even if it’s not a straight line, or one that Mia knows what lies ahead. The attention is back to what’s happening on screen, but for some it might not be enough to bring their investment back.
Throughout MIA, Barkola presents a visually beautiful film that showcases the brutal reality of an uncertain life. The random encounters that broaden our awareness is presented in a way that captures the true awkwardness of life. It may not be a film for all, but the ones who do connect with it will connect with it in a deep way. Nothing brings people together more than realizing they aren’t the only ones who don’t know what do to with their life.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Ring the Bell Productions, 2018