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Abad va yek rooz (2016)
The newest addition to Iran's Realist movement in filmmaking
Life + 1 Day is the directorial debut for young screenwriter and director Saeed Roostaei, whose film is well-written and well-crafted with stellar performances from most of the cast. The plot (if you could call it that) is about the youngest girl in a poverty-stricken family in Tehran who's contemplating whether she should leave her family to marry a rich Afghan or to stay with them and continue her mostly-futile attempts to mend her broken family. Her older brother, Morteza, who's a recovering addict urges her to leave, while her younger brother, Mohsen, who's still a user, implores her to stay and not give up on her family.
In my opinion, the film certainly has its moments. In one scene, the two brothers argue over whether Morteza has received money from the Afghan suitor and is supporting the marriage for his own financial gain. The chemistry between Moaadi and Mohammadzadeh is unbelievable, and the dialog fuels the drama in a powerful way.
My problem with Life + 1 Day is two-fold: first, it's structure: the film has divided its attention among all characters, and in doing so, it has spread itself too thin. We see a family of 8 and we are given a glimpse into the life and problems of each and every one. At the end of the day, the film is about all of the characters. I think to do justice to all of them, the film would have needed much more runtime.
My second issue is with the rampant melodrama during the whole film. It's like listening to an opera with the soprano screaming her lungs out the entire piece. I'm not saying the scenarios are contrived or the sequences are not believable. My point is that for the drama to really kick in, you need to have the "downs" as well as the "ups". The characters of this story are constantly screaming, quibbling or shedding tears! There is a sequence, where the family celebrates their youngest brother's remarkable grades or a sequence where they take a family picture together. Sequences like these would've better established the "normal" pace of daily life and then, as a result, the more dramatic sequences would have hit the audiences (especially international ones who may be less familiar with the culture of Iranian families) even harder.
Overall, I'm personally happy with the direction Iran's school of Realism in cinema has taken in recent years and look forward to Roostaei's future films. Afterall, he's only 26. I can't imagine what movies he'll be making by the time he's 40!
Pretentious, unrealistic, wanna-be art-house drama
Circumstance is a purpose-driven film. All of its elements (plot, casting, directing, etc.) are aimed at being controversial. The movie sets out to appeal to the Westerner's curiosity about an issue that is widely debated in the media and other circles: Homosexuality in Iran, and to me, it is a gigantic failure of epic proportions!
Controversy should be the bi-product of a work of art, not its sole purpose. It's as if the writer/director of this film sat down and brainstormed all the things that would potentially make her film controversial: homosexuality, lesbian love scenes, rape, the morality police in Iran. I'm so sorry to say that it even failed in achieving its main purpose, largely due to the film's extremely artificial depiction of life.
The acting in this movie is just horrendous. As a speaker of Persian, I cringed every time the actors opened their mouths. There was this pig-headed insistence on breaking taboos and speaking about the unspeakable. Even if we turn a blind eye towards the acting, the characters were just contradictory to the point of being comedic!
Overall, this movie was a hodgepodge of weak elements sloppily pasted together to form a pretentious, poor excuse of a movie. I wish I'd watched 'Jack and Jill' instead.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
You be the judge...
I'm an Iranian, but I've never been interested in Iranian cinema. I only watch Iranian films when they win awards or receive international recognition. I'm a fan of Kiarostami and Majidi, but I can't really say that I like all of their films. I watched Farhady's previous film (About Elly) about a year ago, and the first thing which struck me was how culturally detached the movie was in its depiction of an event. At the time, I believed this to have been the cause of this director's success. Watching Nader and Simin, however, proved that I was terribly mistaken.
Asghar Farhady's obsession with the concept of judgment is once again the driving force behind his latest feature. The life-like depiction of the Iranian courtroom (which is in no way impartial) places the audience in the Judge's seat from the very beginning. The extremely believable acting and insanely complex script compel the viewer to make up his/her mind just like when reading a court case. As for the screenplay, I'm almost certain the events in this film actually happened in real life, because in no way could one fabricate such a chaotically complex series of events, so beautifully woven into a coherent whole.
Despite being very Iranian in its narrative style and its depiction of Iranian culture (the sanctity of Family, faith, commitment towards parents and married life), I believe that this film could easily appeal to the Western audiences just like a film by Inaritu or Haneke (although I'm pretty sure it won't be nominated for an Oscar for political reasons).
After seeing About Elly, I thought Farhady's success was just a one-time fling, but coming out of the theater, having watched Nader and Simin, I was proud to have another Iranian director added to my international list of favorites.