How far can frictionless filmmaking, just pure smoothness of craft, take a movie? Writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest, Maya, a light and well-made film, puts this question to the test. In it, she employs truly breathtaking images of India, coupled with adroit editing, to swim us through landscapes and montages towards what feels like an effortless conclusion. The problem, however, is that conclusion, and the two characters who take us there.
Gabriel (Roman Kolinka), a war journalist, has been freed from captivity in Syria and returned home. To help restore himself fully to life, he decides to spend time in his childhood home in India. All of this is a not uninteresting story. Once there, he connects with his estranged mother, his godfather, and the godfather’s teen-aged daughter, Maya (Aarshi Banerjee). To be clear, the film is about more than just Gabriel’s relationship with Maya—those other characters play a part, we learn about a grim real estate scam, and, again, those aforementioned montages really are amazing to watch. But then the film returns to Gabriel and Maya and we brace ourselves. Is Hansen-Løve really planning to steer her movie in that direction?
If I’m going to bust a film like Angel (also, regrettably, playing at TIFF), then I have to ding Hansen-Løve for what is ultimately the same thing. White man seeks solution to his problems in the arms of the colonized “other,” gets what he’s after, and returns to his life—consequences be damned. I really don’t want to scold, believe me, but: Hansen-Løve should know better.