Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ava Movie Poster Image
Moving, unrelenting tale of Iranian teen's fall from grace.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages are complex, tough. Ava's story illustrates unbearable pressure that uncompromising societal expectations can put on someone's life. Unfortunately, her downfall may send the message that struggling against unjust authority is ultimately futile. But film centers on a young Muslim woman, a voice not often heard in Western film, and learning about how teens live in other places may make young viewers more politically aware and active.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ava is a strong-minded young woman who makes mistakes -- and pays dearly for them. Parents, teachers, principals are very interested in the futures of the children under their charge, if not always very kind to them. Many harsh/unsympathetic "punching down" characterizations: One woman calls the children of a divorced family "fatherless vagabonds," and a man calls those with mental illness "psycho."


Many threats: In one argument, Ava's mom says she'll kill her daughter and cut her "into little pieces"; in another, she says she'll slap her "mouth full of blood." She also pinches her daughter's face painfully. One girl slaps another during a conflict. A pregnancy and then self-abortion are discussed mostly in veiled terms; it's said that a girl wanted to "dispose" of her baby, and young girls discuss "filthy places" where it's said you can get an infection "and then you'll die." A distraught girl stabs herself in the hand; viewers see spurting blood hit the wall and then her tending to her wound. 


Sex discussed in vague terms -- after Ava is caught sneaking away to spend time with a boy, her mom takes her to a "doctor" who reports that "nothing has happened to her." Viewers don't see the exam. A girl who gets pregnant is referred to as having "brought a certain circumstance upon herself." Attempt to self-abort the baby is discussed in veiled terms ("she wanted to dispose of it, at school"), as are other illegal abortions. A boy tells a girl that he bet his friends that he could "take her home."


Language is in Persian, with English subtitles in the American release, so most viewers will read the curses, which include: "f--k," "f--ked," "s--t," "s--thead," "ass," "a--hole," "damn," "bulls--t," "hell," and "bastards" (referring to children born to unmarried parents).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ava is an Iranian drama about a teen girl (Mahour Jabbari) whose life changes after she rebels against the rules of her parents and school. Perhaps the most troubling aspect to Western viewers will be the way that dating, sex, pregnancy, and girls are viewed. A girl who spends time alone with a boy is taken to a gynecologist to be examined for signs of having had sex (she hasn't); skipping school and having a date with a boy are enough to get a (female) student expelled (the boy doesn't seem to suffer any consequences); and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy is referred to as a girl having "brought a certain circumstance upon herself" (and viewers learn of her attempt to abort the baby in a school bathroom). A mother pinches her daughter's cheek during an argument, one girl slaps another, and an upset girl self-harms by slashing her hand. An angry mother also tells her daughter that she'll kill her and "cut her into little pieces" and will slap her mouth "full of blood." The film is in Persian with English subtitles; swearing includes "f--k," "f--ked," "s--t," "s--thead," "ass," "a--hole," "damn," "bulls--t," "hell," and "bastards."

User Reviews

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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 15 years old Written byJackson D. December 24, 2018

this movie.....

salty language, some sexy stuff, actually age 21+

What's the story?

To most American viewers, the things that AVA (Mahour Jabbari) wants won't seem like such a big deal: to call her friends on the phone and giggle about boys, to wear lipstick, to maybe even spend time with a cute boy she knows. But in her conservative Iranian school -- and to her even more conservative parents -- all of these things are strictly forbidden. The students and faculty whisper about girls who've gone beyond the bounds of what's permissible, and once you become one of the whispered-about, it may already be too late. When teen rebellion meets unyielding authority, something has to bend ... and maybe even break. 

Is it any good?

Unrelenting and tense, this story of an average Iranian teen under extraordinary pressure is terrifying in a quiet way that will resonate with Americans of the #MeToo era. Even to Ava's pious classmates, Ava's parents seem unduly strict. Her mom (Bahar Noohian) demands to drop her right at the door of her school and yells at her to go inside rather than meeting her friends at the gates. And when her mom learns that Ava snuck away from her friend Melody's house to hang out in a park with a friend's brother, she's so furious and upset that she drags Ava to an ob-gyn to find out whether her daughter is still a virgin (note: that's not really a thing you can tell by looking at someone). And from there, things just keep getting worse for Ava and her family. 

The true horrors of this film are the outrageously (to Westeners, anyway) out-of-proportion consequences for what seem (to us) like very minor transgressions. When Ava spends time with the boy she likes, the two of them don't even touch; when she self-harms at school, her Dolores Umbridge-like principal immediately threatens to expel her from school -- which would, we're told, be utterly ruinous for Ava's future. While it's easy to understand why a teen might be chafing against her parents' rules and restrictions, it's harder to fathom a world in which a young person's fortunes could so quickly fall from promising to annihilated. Ava will make you understand -- and feel strongly for the girl it's about. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Ava's setting. Is it the present? Where do the characters live? How much money do they have? What's their status in their society? Given all these circumstances, do you think Ava and her parents are extraordinary or average? 

  • How does the way the movie portrays teen girls, dating, and related topics compare to what you've seen in American/Hollywood movies? What can we learn about gender representations from watching this film?

  • A common element in dramatic movies is characters who are isolated in some way and then put under some type of stress. Who is the isolated person (or people) in Ava, and what's the stress they're under? How would the movie change if either the source of stress, or the reasons they're isolated, changed? 

  • Clothing/costumes are often a shortcut to characterization -- we know something about a character by what he or she is wearing. What can you tell about Ava from her clothes? What about her mother's clothing, or that of Ava's principal? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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