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While I was re-watching bits of this movie a few weeks ago, I read the
user comments here at IMDb and was very disturbed. Since it is still
bothering me, I decided to write my own comments on the movie and on
what has been said here.
First, the movie. It is about an international custody battle. That is a very real problem in this day and age. When couples from different countries break up they often each want the children to live with them and grow up in the country (and culture) in which they were raised. Each naturally thinks the way he or she was raised is better for their children.
This movie is Betty Mahmoody's story. And the culture clash is between the United States and Iran. It takes place in 1984. The Ayatollah Khomeini was still very much the leader Iran and the Iran-Iraq war had been going on for 4 years and would continue for another 4. Iran was quite isolated from much of the world at that time.
And 'Moody' Mahmoody, an Iranian-born doctor practicing in the U.S., brings his American wife, Betty, and their daughter, Mahtob, to Iran for a visit. When they arrive, Moody is dismayed at the changes in Iran, especially the breakdown of the education system and the resulting shortage of doctors. Then he becomes an ultra, ultra fundamentalist Muslim so reactionary he makes suicide bombers look moderate. He demands that Betty dress and behave how he thinks a good Muslim wife should and wants their daughter to be raised to do the same. He becomes physically abusive to Betty. If she wants to return to America, it is fine with him, but Mahtob will remain with him in Iran. So Betty plans a dangerous escape for herself and her daughter.
Does the movie work? Somewhat. 'Women in peril' movies are always a guilty pleasure and Sally Field is a good actress. The biggest problem is with Moody's character. Alfred Molina is a wonderful actor, but it's hard to do much with a character that undergoes such a radical change in his basic character in a matter of weeks. I kept expecting to learn that he had once been diagnosed as psychotic or schizophrenic.
Is the movie unfair to the Iranian people? Again, somewhat. Virtually all the characters in the movie except Betty and Mahtob are Iranian. Some are good. Some are bad. But you can't have a 'woman in peril' with no peril. And that is provided by Moody and his family. But the people who help Betty escape are also Iranian. What unfairness there is lies not in maligning the Iranian people (it doesn't do that) but in implying (and sometimes saying explicitly) that the Iranian culture is inferior just because it is not westernized. As a free American woman I would not want to live in any fundamentalist society, regardless of which religion was in control. But post-revolution Iran is no more representative of thousands of years of Persian culture than Italy under Mussolini was representative of a land that produced the Roman Empire and Michelangelo.
Is the movie unfair to Moody? No, because this is BETTY's story. Talk to anyone in a bitter custody battle and they'll tell you all about why their ex is evil. And they wouldn't be lying. They are giving you their point of view. That doesn't mean Moody doesn't have a different point of view which is equally true and equally untrue (and which, I gather from the comments, was explored in another movie.) But 'Not Without My Daughter' doesn't pretend to be a sociological examination into the two sides of a dispute. Let me repeat for the third time, this is BETTY's story.
That brings me to why some of the comments disturb me so much. I would fully understand if some viewers thought the movie was silly or inaccurate or biased. But several writers have used their reviews as an excuse to joyfully bash the United States. My favorite was 'Who died and made Americans god to do movies about other countries??' That writer is from Sweden but doesn't seem to have a problem with Jan Troell making 'The New Land' (Nybyggarna) about America. And, were we to listen to her, we wouldn't have 'An American in Paris' or 'The Killing Fields' or 'Out of Africa' or 'Amadeus' (all of which are much better films than 'Not Without My Daughter.') But in the United States we have freedom of speech. That means that movie producers are free to make any movie to which they think they can sell tickets. And, as a member of the viewing public, when I disagree with what they are saying I have a very simple remedy. I don't buy a ticket.
I am a bit confused as to why so many people seem to question the truth of Betty's story. She and her family are the ones who lived it. Who is anyone else to assume she is falsely presenting it? In my opinion, much of the reason for the movie and the book (which I agree is much better based on thoroughness alone) is that she is telling her story as a warning to other wives who may find themselves in a similar situation to not put herself and child(ren) at that risk. Others have mentioned that they were free to come and go as they pleased from Iran back to the U.S. Betty clearly points out in her book that she knows others in that same situation. It just wasn't true for her. I agree that the book is far superior to the movie, but for the movie to accurately represent the book, it would have been several hours long. As such, within the time frame, I think it did a great job. Perhaps I find the book and movie 100% believable having had the pleasure of meeting Betty. Also, I was born and raised in one of the small towns in Michigan where Betty lived, and worked for a year in one of the other small cities where she lived. Her descriptions of those places were right on target. My sister, a nurse, knew Moody from one of the hospitals mentioned--and confirmed, as stated by Betty herself, that at that time in his life, Moody was indeed a very nice man. In the book, Betty also makes it VERY clear that she knows and has great love and respect for many of the Iranian people--many of whom put their own lives at risk to help her and Mahtob escape--people whom she knows she can never repay in any way for what they did for her. The only Iranian people she presents (in the book) in any really truly bad light are those of Moody's family--especially the freeloading, ungrateful relatives who lived with them for a short time in America and expected her to wait on them--her being a second class citizen simply because she is a woman. There is nothing wrong with her making those statements. After all, she should know. She was not portraying all Iranians as having those characteristics. Also, in the book, she very adequately describes how erratic Mood's behavior and personality were, problems with situational depression--and how she chose to ignore/tolerate it because neither of them were very realistic and were non-confrontational people--often letting things get out of control before situations were even addressed. I could go on with many other things, but I think the reviews that see this as a culture bashing movie are reading a lot into it that is not there. It is simply one woman's story of what happened to her--as a warning of what is a chilling reality of what could happen to a child in this kind of situation. After what she went through to make sure her daughter did not have to live as a subservient second class citizen, she wrote it to try and keep the same thing from happening to anyone else.
I have seen this movie a few times and in my opinion, I enjoyed it and
didn't find it racist at all. This is what happened to Betty and her
Is she saying that this is how ALL Iranians are? No, just what happened to her. The movie didn't give Iranians all a bad name because who were the people who helped her to escape from Iran? They were Iranians. It was not like every single person she met in Iran was rude to her. She is just talking about her husband's family and the way they treated her.
Also remember this happened in 1984, twenty years ago. For people to compare Iran now to the Iran in the movie, it's totally different. The country has changed in the pass 20 years.
I fully enjoyed this movie and admire the real Betty's courage. As a mother myself, I totally understand her not wanting to leave without her daughter. I would fight to the ends of the world for my child and that is what Betty did for her child as well.
Many people on here have said that they were not speaking Farsi in this
movie. Actually they were. Most of the actors were Israelis of Persian
origin. Most of the dialogue in this movie was in Farsi, not in Arabic
contrary to the claims made by many who have posted here. Even the non
native speakers like Alfred Molina, etc muttered lines in Farsi, not in
Arabic. In fact all throughout the movie you could see banners of Farsi
hanging over the streets of Tehran, and graffiti saying "Marg Bar
Amreekaa." This means "Death to America" in Farsi. None of this was
How do you say "Death to America" in Arabic? "Al Mout Li Amreeka"....this line was not once uttered throughout the entire movie. And it never appeared on a single banner or graffiti message.
There was Farsi throughout the entire movie. Just for starters basic words or phrases like "Khoda Hafez" "Salaam", "Ashpazkhaneh" etc. etc.
Farsi is a very distinct language from Arabic. Very recognizable. Even if you didn't speak farsi you could easily distinguish it by ear from Arabic. Arabic is extremely loud and guttural. In contrast Farsi is much softer. The accents of these two separate languages are entirely different.
So to the many people who said they didn't speak Farsi in this movie, you are wrong. Its been a while since I have seen it, but as far as I can remember, the only Arabic used was in prayers over the loud speakers. And when the family was performing morning prayers, they did speak Arabic, but it was ironically even in Persian accent. But this is normal. Iranians always pray in Arabic, the language of the Holy Quran. The movie was absolutely right about this.
This movie was filled with Persian culture. Even the names of the foods were Persian, not Arabic.
And remember some of the names of the characters? Ameh Bozorg, Baba Hajji, Miss Alavi, Khanum Shaheen, Aga Hakim...etc. etc.
These are literally Persian names and titles. Very authentic.
So I am really clueless as to what people are talking about when they said they only spoke Arabic in this film. Clearly not true.
A note on Persian culture and language. There is no denying that Farsi is extremely arabized Persian. Farsi belongs to the Indo European language family but has thousands of Arabic loan words. Even the name "Farsi" itself is arabized. Its actually "Parsi" but the Arabs have no "P" sound, so its always been known as "Farsi".
So although Iranian culture and the Farsi language is quite distinct from Arab culture and is Persian in origin, there is no doubt that it is at least somewhat influenced by Arabic ways. Why do you think Farsi is written with the Arabic alphabet? Why is the main religion of Iran Islam? Obviously because of the impact Arabic expansion and culture had on Persia so many centuries ago.
Throughout the movie you also saw posters of Khamenei and Khomenei. Two Iranian totalitarian clerics. These men are not Arabs they are Persian.
There were so many references to Persian in this movie. Moody even said to Mahtob (another Persian name)...."You know, I was born in Persia."
So when people accuse the producers of this film of being ignorant about Iranian culture and Farsi language, you are quite mistaken. They did a very good job, especially with filming this in Israel. They could have easily botched this movie, but for the most part they didn't.
Also, some on here have said this movie is "racist." I beg to differ. This movie is based on a true story. The book is even more graphic. This movie actually sugar coated a lot of things.
And how could one be "racist" against Iranians? Since when has there been an "Iranian race" or a "middle eastern race"? Thats like saying there is an "American race" or "North American race" or something. It doesn't make sense.
But anyway, this is a great movie. Very informative about the current oppressive regime in Iran. The Shah was bad, and unfortunately America supported him. But the current Islamic theocracy is far worse. They hang little girls from cranes in public.
The story of Betty Mahmoody is a truly frightening one. The book she
wrote and this movie based on it are controversial (many see it as
little more than a racist slam against Iranian culture) but to me this
movie came across as both believable and balanced. There's no doubt
that life in Iran isn't presented as paradise, but the story really
isn't about life in Iran; it's about one woman's experience of being
forced to remain in Iran against her will after she and her daughter
accompany her Iranian born doctor husband back to his homeland to visit
his family, and about her subsequent efforts to escape Iran with her
daughter. It also does a great job of depicting the almost complete
lack of rights and freedoms women possess in Iran - having a status as
little more than property to their husbands, and subject to their
Sally Field was excellent in the role of Betty and Alfred Molina was also disturbingly believable as "Moody" - her husband. As the story opens, the family are living a comfortable life in Michigan and Moody is a completely Americanized doctor working in a local hospital - a loving husband and father. Against her better judgement, Betty agrees to visit his family in Iran - a family more radically Islamic than Moody who from the moment they arrive begin to pressure him to stay and adopt their ways. Molina did a good job of showing the gradual changes in Moody's character and as he becomes more and more abusive and controlling toward Betty. Field superbly portrays Betty's growing desperation and her feelings of helplessness (and hopelessness) as every opportunity for her to escape with her daughter seems to close. Finally, with the help of some sympathetic Iranians, Betty and daughter Mahtoub make a mad escape attempt toward Turkey.
Whether all aspects of Iranian life and culture are accurately portrayed here seems somewhat beside the point to me. This isn't, after all, a documentary about life in Iran. This is Betty's own story as she experienced it and remembered it - and it's a story that makes the viewer ache for her as she tries to figure out a way to escape this nightmare she's caught up in. I found her story completely believable and brilliantly portrayed.
I have seen other comments that tell "his" side of the story. He was a cruel man and basically held her hostage by not letting her leave without her daughter. He was a worm and a bully. Hurray for Betty and the bravery of her escape. I would have loved to see his face when he found out she made it back. He under estimated her--that stupid fool. He forgot that American women don't like to be bossed around. I hope he never got to see or talk to his daughter again. He doesn't deserve it. And don't believe any propaganda they try and sell you about how her poor husband got the dirty end of the stick. He pulled an underhanded sneak attack on her and didn't have the "you know what" to tell her his plans. Good for you Betty--and as for that creep and all creeps like him in Iran--good riddance. And don't buy it for a minute that Betty was lying. She wasn't. I have heard the same from other women in the same boat. She spoke the truth about everything and it is much worse than she even described.
I saw this movie quite some time ago and enjoyed it. It did not leave me with a negative image of Iranians, Islam or Persia at all. I saw it as a simple story of mother trying to do what was best for her daughter. Not wanting ones daughter to be a second class citizen in my own opinion does not warrant the hostility I have seen portrayed in the previous comments. Sally Fields performance was certainly good. The movie told the story from the wifes/mothers point of view. I found that the movie showed just cause why the husband would become disenchanted with the USA. I can completely understand why he would like to return to his home. After all there is no place like home. My sympathy however with the husband left me when I saw the deception he displayed keeping his American family in Iran. This movie, though flawed was well worth viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, i'm a fan of Sally Fields and so I rented this to see what
she was like in a film about Persians, my own background. To say the
least, I was disappointed. The film was blatantly Iranophobic in most
aspects. First off, to those 'morals police' (yeah the ugly fanatics
with the machine gun) bring their truck around to nab at every
opportunity some poor American woman whose bangs fall out of her scarf:
what the hell? I think the gov't, in a state of war, would have better
ways to allocate funds than to have crazy men and women driving around
in morals trucks, fully armed, to tuck someone's hair in. Secondly,
when they showed the young boys being kidnapped to fight in a war, and
the Iranian man tells Betty that they'll be given "plastic keys to
paradise, made in Taiwan", i don't even understand what that's supposed
to signify. Children were never kidnapped and the plastic key bit made
absolutely no sense. Perhaps they were trying to demean the sacrifices
of the men and youth who fought in the war, which, need I remind us,
was fought against Saddam Hussein (on the gallows presently), who was
outright supported by the U.S. But, of course, that's never shown. I
could write so much more but I think anyone who has seen it won't need
any further explanations. Yes, it's a good story in the sense that
international custody conflicts do happen, but the overacting was
ridiculous, and the script even more so. Some say its not racist
because 'there is no Iranian race', so its definitely anti-Iranian.
And about the Israeli comments; do you honestly not think there's an implicit bias in having a film about Islamic Iran filmed in Israel with Israeli actors? think how you'd feel if the Iranians made a film about a Muslim woman in Israel who has her son shot, filmed in Iran, portrayed by Iranian actors? don't you think there'd be a huge outcry of bias, unfairness, racism, and *gasp* anti-semitism? It's unfair both ways.
I think this movie is awful in many ways.
First of all it's filmed in the most deserted and horrifying areas around Kabul (Afghanistan) and we are supposed to think its Tehran, the capitol of Iran. That gives a wrong impression of this beautiful city.
Second, the Persian family that is presented here in this lousy American propaganda movie is a very unusual family. I'm a Persian myself and I've never come across meeting or even heard of such a family. I think this movie gives a completely wrong and distorted picture of what a Persian family is like.
I live in Denmark, and a lot of my friends asked me after watching this movie, is it really like this in Iran. And of course I said 'NO'. Because it isn't. It's not Paradise either, but it's not that bad, as we see it here in this picture. I've noticed how this movie has affected people's vision of Iran in a wrong way.
Third, it doesn't make sense to me at all. Moody is a loving father, a man that has been living in America for many years, suddenly when he comes back to Iran he's transformed into a tyrannical, cold-hearted beast. It's not logic ..He must be a very disturbed man.
This movie among many others is used for making a commercial for U.S.A. A politically propaganda movie. We are supposed to conclude that America is the perfect country, and every time there is something wrong in other areas of the world, America is there like an angel, and America will save us from all evil. I'm sick of this Americanisation. America is NOT the world and I'm extremely happy about that!!!!
I've seen other people comment on how good and factual this movie is!!! To those I would say, unless you are Persian or Iranian, you should not comment on this film at all. This movie has only been made for propaganda.
Can you tell me about an American movie that has been made about (Iran) that is positive?
Please write back to me and name some movies!!! Surprise me please!!!
I'm an iranian girl living in Iran since before the revolution.
I don't say everything for women to cope with, was easy during 21 year.but
it's not that bad, that in this movie you'll see.
Certainly our culture is different from what you see.
Actually you won't feel any special difference comparing other countries in these recent years in Iran. I just wish politic and movies won't be mixed again.
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