Hitchhiking across Bulgaria, an art student meets and eventually falls for a 17-year-old compulsive liar and runaway in “Ave,” first-time writer-director Konstantin Bojanov’s good-looking but formulaic romance. Their characters bickering until they start to hug, kiss, bare souls and (obviously) more, the pic’s attractive young actors (Anjela Nedyalkova, Ovanes Torosyan) manage reasonable chemistry, although Bojanov fails to reward them with a sufficiently novel approach to the love-on-the-road genre. Mild humor, discreet sexuality and an ending more melancholy than expected aren’t enough to push “Ave” into heavy traffic internationally. Still, regional fests seeking a foreign but safely familiar pic could do worse.
Sharing thumbed rides with moody Kamen (Torosyan), Ave (Nedyalkova) tells their first driver she’s traveling northeast from Sofia to Ruse to visit her cancer-stricken grandma. Later, hooking a ride with a perverted trucker, she offers that Kamen doesn’t speak English. During another ride, she claims Kamen lost his soldier brother in Iraq — at which point Kamen gets fed up and splits, although fate unsurprisingly brings them together again. Disappointingly, “Ave” hints at but doesn’t much explore the theme of adolescent deception as a self-protective act. Tech credits are mature.