Aboli portrays a painful interview with a well-established actress in which she reveals abuse she suffered as a child to a journalist. The film is compelling and interesting in it’s structure due to the fact that the lead actress essentially carries the entire film with her subtle but telling gestures that signify a deep well of writhing pain beneath a composed surface. It’s an interesting dynamic in light of the fact she is an actress because it represents a complete reversal of her role at the theater. In a performance, an actor has to portray palpable emotion while all the while working within the practical needs of the production. She must hit her mark, deliver a line with perfect timing, and be totally are of the space within the set. In Aboli’s reversal of this, she wants to repress the outpouring of feeling, her goal is the practical concerns only; she wants the facts laid out and her story told.

The film starts with her voice against black as she calls the journalist. Without much ceremony or elaboration, she requests if an interview which they had discuss previously can be completed that afternoon. It sounds very routine, as if she is simply fulfilling an obligation she’s made, something she has only a passing interest in. When she meets her interviewer at the café, it is the same tone. They sit, and Aboli asks if they can please push through the usual social graces and get right to the business at hand. It seems like a typical exchange that would occur between a high profile celebrity and a journalist, and it sets a tone that Aboli is more comfortable within in order to reveal the personal details she knows will be mined for the feature. We are reeling a little bit as an audience when the questions begin and dive straight into allusions of abuse. It keeps us as an audience playing catch up in trying to contextualize what we’re hearing. It’s a situation that the journalist clearly already had some passing knowledge about, and has landed this critical interview which she does not want to blow. The film does a very nice job of bringing all of this to light for the attentive view without delving into a lot of cumbersome expository dialog explaining the why, how, and when. We are privy to a dialog that is already in progress, and it’s elegantly handled as such, adding an extra level of authenticity.

This is also part of the film’s style, which is reminiscent of stripped down minimalist cinema like My Dinner With Andre. There are no major dramatic developments in the film until the final moments when the credits roll. There’s no power struggle between the two leads, no major conflict, no major revelations. Just the incremental reveal of a sad story, told without cinematic embellishment. The camera pays special attention to Aboli’s nervous fidgeting with objects around her, small movements such as the rolling of cigarettes, squeezing tobacco between her fingertips as she bundles it into rolling papers; a visual metaphor for the turmoil she’s managing, or perhaps the careful construction of the story. She was molested by an uncle for an ongoing period of ten years, from the time when she was seven, until her family re-located at the age of seventeen. She is especially troubled as she reveals her mother’s lack of action or alarm at what was going on when she reached out to her for help. Her only response to the situation being a hug of reassurance, something which indeed was effective enough for a seven year old, but a fact Aboli has become incredulous with as the weight of the situation came into focus through the years. Aboli’s response during this is to suggest to the journalist they go for some fresh air with a pained smile.

This is an especially nice visual moment in the film, as what Aboli is after is not open air, but a closed and darkened alleyway where she can continue without feeling eyes upon her. In the darkness, there’s the flash of the match upon her face as she lights the cigarette she’s been so focused on thus far in the interview. We hear the shaking in her voice as she continues the details, but never gives over to full crying, laying out the full story. When they’ve returned to the café and Aboli parts with the journalist, she tells her they should speak again sometime, “off the record.” It’s another careful and guarded gesture, but is surely Aboli’s way of communicating gratitude to the journalist for giving her this opportunity. When Aboli weeps on her way home in the car, we finally feel the full release of what we’ve just witnessed, brought to life by the exceptional lead actress.

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