This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #990. See more »
What I mean to say is, suppose the kid did nothing wrong. What would you do? What then?
I'd find an excuse and give him a beating every other week. So he wouldn't forget.
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Slow but rather rewarding even if some aspects were lost on me
Mohamed Reda Nematzadeth has been told off three times already for not doing his homework in the book provided, next time he fails to do it in the book he will be expelled. So whenever his classmate Ahmed gets home and finds that Mohamed's book is in his bag. Knowing that it will be his fault that his friend gets into trouble, he tries to get his mother to help him return it but, when she refuses, he sneaks out of the house knowing only that Mohamed lives in an area several miles away across the hills. Getting to the area turns out to be the easy part as, regardless of who he asks, few are able or willing to help him find the house of his friend.
It is perhaps fitting (and pointless) that Channel 4 in the UK chose to broadcast a short season of films from Iran; after all, Iran is being talked about in the same way as Iraq was a year before we went to war with them, so it looks like some form of action may be taken against Iran a country that few people really know a great deal about. I don't think that watching a few films from a country will teach you all you need to know about it, but it is a start I suppose and kudos to Channel 4 for giving up so much time (albeit late night) to screen 2-3 films a night for a week. This was the first in the mini-season and it presents a disarmingly simple story to provide an insight into life in a semi-rural area of Iran although it is certainly too slow, uneventful and layered to really learn a great deal from. For starters the plot is simple and does as little as my plot summary suggests it does; viewers reared on "bang a minute" action films will certainly not be impressed by the pace, the delivery or the conclusion. I enjoyed it but even I must admit that the running time did have a certain about of slack in it that could have been taken in a bit without losing too much.
The actual story is just a frame to see aspects of life in Iran behaviour, environment, habits and conditions; to the unfamiliar (such as myself) this will provide distraction easily enough as it is interesting in what it does, although I suspect that more was lost on me than I realised. I got the impression that the story was a metaphor for Iran and that the themes of doing the right thing, being distracted by individual minor squabbles, giving for others etc were all set within a national context that I failed to understand, perhaps a little help for the uninitiated would have been useful in the shape of text explaining the country up front? Regardless, this is my loss and the film owes me nothing; I still felt that the theme that really Ahmed's ongoing thoughtfulness and friendship was more useful than just finding the boy's house worked not easily reached perhaps but it is there.
The performances are all convincingly natural and the camera could easily not have been there. Babek Ahmed Poor's Ahmed naturally steals the film and, although he doesn't show a great range he is as natural and as likable as the film required him to be you forget he is acting and this could easily be fly-on-the-wall stuff. Likewise, the support cast all come off the same albeit with less screen time they provide an interesting view of the country and fill out the story with colour.
Overall then, not the film to watch if you are itching for the US to attack Iran, nor if you prefer more action and less talk; but it is an interesting and worthwhile film nonetheless. Despite feeling that some of it was lost on me, I still enjoyed the central theme of friendship and the tour around some aspects of Iranian life while it greatly benefited from a very natural delivery from all sides of the camera.
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