Viewings in Vancouver – Maya

Technically, this should be called VOD Viewings or something but I don’t get to use this particular type of article format often these days with loads of Canadian content and even more loads of articles by the 4 other guys on here. The title actually kind of fits given how the VOD release in Canada was only a little over a week ago. But Maya has a huge focus on human sex trafficking and a long runtime to give you a lot to learn and think about. I’m just hoping Phoenix doesn’t run into this issue in her later years, but her father assures me I’ll still be a BFF of hers 10 years later and that gives me hope if she learns anything from/about me, it’s the kind of people to avoid. Here’s how this film goes. 

Maya (Isabella Feliciana) is a teen girl who enjoys the company she keeps with her friends and tries to get along with her mother Camila (Patricia Velasquez), which is hard since her father fled years ago after an argument. Camila doesn’t have much common sense dating Diego (Gian Franco Rodriguez), a lazy abusive alcoholic who wins her back with flowers and apologies. This upsets Maya even more as she posts about her issues on social media. That’s when it catches the attention of a man named Ray (Billy Budinich) who reaches out to her. Maya seems okay with meeting up with him, even though there’s another boy in her class, by the name of Ezekiel (Basilio Cerdan Jr) who wants to get to know her better. With Camila drinking while trying to recover from the latest Diego injury, and Maya’s date being a gossip subject amongst her friends, difficulties pile on. Then, of course, the obvious happens when Maya meets Ray and discovers he’s much older than her. But thanks to his charm, Maya warms up to Ray and she even accepts a beautiful bracelet and starts meeting him more often. Ray seems like a trustworthy companion having a bit of the Uncle Jesse vibe, even offering advice to Maya. and lets her have his number in cases of unhappiness. One night, Diego the drunkard returns and manages to hurt Maya while trying to act cute though it comes off as creepy. Maya’s mother returns home and forces them to make up, which is more than Maya can take. Ray forcefully tells her how dangerous it is to live there and offers comfort, Maya’s teacher gets concerned when she sees the scars caused by Diego and then gets even more concerned when Ray picks up Maya at school. Ray also recommends Maya become a model and does a photoshoot with her. When Maya can’t put up with Diego anymore, she packs her things in a bag and calls Ray to come to her rescue. Ray secretly breaks her phone, drives her off to somewhere presumably safer and causes frustration for her mother. Where does Maya end up going? Viva Las Vegas. Maya spends a luxurious day in Vegas and Ray spoils her with new art supplies while repeatedly calling her ‘baby’. Maya seems to be in paradise until one of his ‘business associates’ Kayla (Rumer Willis) swings by, and a couple of rich investor creeps come in as well for some sort of business deal. Ray continues to make things worse for Maya as she is forced to get comfortable with one of the investors, Ed (Dennis W Hall), and then Ray drugs her next glass of champagne. Ed the investor, gives her the worst night of her life and Maya wakes up with no dignity. Ray bullies her with accusations of leading Ed into sexual harassment and how it’s all her fault.

Meanwhile, the authorities do what they can to track down Maya discover her interactions with Ray and do what they can to track them down. Maya is rescued and spends a few months in special care, but develops feelings for her pimp, believing he’ll give her a dream home and a baby in Miami. Sometime after she recovers from Ray and reconnects with her mother, she also reconnects with Ray who takes her to the next big party. Camila and the authorities must rush to the rescue and Maya must come to her senses to realize that Ray is not the guy for her. 

A film that focuses on trafficking, Stockholm syndrome, domestic abuse, predators and other dangers in life, Julia Verdin has made a great film that has gotten some fantastic recognition. A well-made story with so many subjects, characters that are portrayed very well, and finely arranged editing. Some things are an instant giveaway, such as the two troublemaking antagonists in the film wearing black leather jackets occasionally. But then we have small, er unique details that make the film look more interesting, such as the colour grading of dim blue in the hotel rooms, even when things are disconcerting. It shocks me to know that things like this are going on, but I’m impressed with how much I’ve learned in this film. There need to be more films that focus on subjects like these and hopefully bring more awareness.

Check this site for where to stream Maya, and if you still use a DVD player, the DVD comes out next month.

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