Marina Rice Bader on moving beyond coming out stories with “Ava’s Impossible Things”

AE: So outside of the fantasy world you created, what is your intended setting for the film? I noticed the three related women have English accents, but the other characters don’t.

MRB: Any town, anywhere, any place. That is my goal. We never name it, we never talk about it, we never show an exterior. And the reason, of course, we do that is because Ava is trapped in her world. So I wanted to keep her world very small, which means inside the house. And so it could be anywhere. It was in my mind that the location is here in the States and this where the family lives. I created the film around Chloe, who was an actress I met when I was casting for Anatomy of a Love Seen. She sort of loses a little bit of her magical thing when she does an American accent. So I just decided let’s just let her be a Brit, but then, of course, I was locked into casting native Brits for the mother and the sister. I got very lucky with those two because they’re both amazing and they all look like they could certainly be part of the same family.

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AE: What is it about Ava that makes her place her life on hold for her mom? Her older sister, Anna, for instance, doesn’t.

MRB: By the time Faye was sick, Anna was already out of the house. Anna was already onto her successful life. Ava was on her way, but then her mom got sick. Originally it was manageable just with Ava moving back into the house and taking care of her mom. She still had a little bit of a social life at that point. But then it continues to downward spiral. So eventually they have someone who comes in and helps them with some home health stuff. But this is one of those things that happens little by little.

For Ava, she stops going out as much, she’s home more, she’s taking on more responsibilities. And before she knows it, she’s lost her outside relationships and she’s giving her life to her mom. It’s what a lot of children choose to do. And then Ava’s pretty soon seeing on a daily basis what her future looks like and so she’s getting more fearful and more, “Well, what’s the use? I might as well just be here. I have my mom.” Who is now the only close relationship that she has, so then it becomes even more difficult to sever that tie. What’s she going to do? Send her somewhere? And then she’s thinking, “What’s going to happen with me when this happens to me? Is someone going to send me somewhere? Are they going to take care of me? How would I want to be treated when I’m at my mom’s stage?” It’s like all those things play into it.

 

AE: Staying with that, having witnessed her mom’s pain and her poor quality of life, why is it harder for Ava to let her go than Anna, who didn’t witness a lot of this but is able to be at peace with her mom’s decision a lot faster?

MRB: Ava’s entire life for the last three years has been her mother and their relationship. They have been incredibly close her whole life. And now Ava considers her mother wanting to kill herself doing it for her, doing it only for Ava. She doesn’t want that responsibility. She doesn’t want her mother deciding to end her own life so that Ava can have a life. That’s a huge thing. That in combination with losing your sole support, the person you see every day from dawn till dusk and who depends on you and you’ve come to depend on them even though in a bit of an unhealthy way–Ava’s not all just a saint, though. The fact that she kept these things from her sister. Ava’s taken on a little bit of a martyr role as well. There’s a bit of a selfish thing happening there.

 

AE: I want to talk about Ava and Jessa now. It’s not fully spelt out in the film, but were Ava and Jessa lovers in high school?

MRB: They were not lovers, but Ava was in love with her and Jessa was in love with Ava in sort of that innocent “we don’t know what’s going on yet” way. Like I said, I went from 15 days of shooting to nine, so a lot of these things that were going to be further developed had to leave the story. But they were in love with each other. They were best friends who were planning on moving away together. In my mind, they would have discovered that romantic love. Then when Ava wasn’t able to go, that relationship didn’t get to evolve in the way that it naturally would have. And Ava is still carrying a torch for Jessa and Jessa’s still carrying a torch for Ava.

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AE: At the very beginning of the film, we see Ava dreaming about making love with a mysterious brunette. Later in the film, she escapes to a fantasy world. Are these dreams common for Ava, or was it your intention to show that they all happened in one day?

MRB: My intention was that she does not escape to this fantasy world every day. It’s because her mother makes this declaration and Ava has to make this escape. But having that little snippet of the love scene upfront–I wanted to establish a little bit that Ava does have a very rich dream world and imagination, and she very often dreams of Jessa. And it’s the only time she can let go, in any way, and allow herself anything, any sort of pleasure, or put herself first, is in a dream or fantasy world.

 

AE: This fantasy world you created–is it because you like the fantastical, or because you believe in the power of dreams as a processing tool? Or is it maybe both?

MRB: It’s a little bit of both. There have been many times that I have woken up from a dream and remembered a lot of the details and it’s changed the way I feel about something or look at something. But more than anything, I really do believe in magic and fantasy. There was going to originally be a lot of magical realism involved in dream world, but I had to cut all of those aspects out because there was no time to film them. But I very much believe in sort of like alternate universes that people can exist on even for a short amount of time. I don’t feel like everything is so black and white as is presented to us on a daily basis. I do believe in flights of fancy and I do believe in impossible things and I do believe that letting our imaginations run wild, whether we’re awake or asleep, is a healthy thing. It needs to escape. Everybody needs their escapism. And this is Ava’s ultimate form of escapism, is this very rich life that she created when she was a child.

 

AE: Finally, you’re about to have your world premiere in front of a largely LGBT audience at Outfest. What are your hopes for the film’s big day?

MRB: Well I hope the theater is packed and I hope that everyone enjoys the film and walks away with something. They’re all universal themes, especially for women. Every woman out there is a mother or a daughter.

Trying to create universal themes that everyone can relate to on some level and wrapping it in an intimate journey and staying true to my audience–it’s always an interesting challenge. Because I don’t want to do coming out stories. I don’t want to do that. We did that with Elena [Undone] and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s always looking for stories that are universal but still remain true to my lesbian audience. I don’t want to leave them, at all, and I hope I don’t have to.

Ava’s Impossible Things premieres at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 16 with Marina and the film’s cast in attendance. The movie will be available to rent on Vimeo on July 17.