With his second feature Gradually…, Iranian director Maziar Miri explores the misogynistic group-think that plagues a young husband named Mahmoud (Mohammad-Reza Foroutan) after his mentally ill wife Pari (Miloofar Khoshkholgh) disappears. Called home to Tehran from the middle-of-nowhere railroad company where he works as a welder, Mahmoud discovers his spouse and adolescent daughter missing, his neighbors spreading ugly rumors about the situation, and his relatives in hiding, appearing only to damn him and Pari for disgracing the family. Miri’s quiet, contemplative camera fixates on the uneducated Mahmoud’s morose countenance, capturing his inner conflict between loyalty to (and love for) his wife, and anger and shame over her actions, the latter soon overtaking his soul to the point that, when an unidentifiable corpse turns up at the morgue, he willingly accepts it as Pari in order to save face and find relief from public disparagement. Miri’s depiction of his Iranian setting’s insidious, deeply embedded sexism cuts sharply, with the contrast between Mahmoud’s religious and legal right to punish his wife however he chooses, murder included, and Pari’s inability to even briefly go unaccounted for without suffering vicious slander (and potentially lethal reprisals) pinpointing the culture’s gender-related double-standards. Yet once Pari’s apparent death—commemorated with a funeral attended by her hateful kin—is called into question by a local butcher who claims to have spotted her while on vacation, the director’s reasonably firm grasp on his material somewhat wavers, as the revelations about Pari’s absence come to negatively complicate not only Mahmoud’s life but Miri’s mise-en-scène as well. Inelegantly edited sequences, herky-jerky transitions, and randomly reappearing characters (such as a police investigator) frustrate the film’s narrative momentum, while the flashback-aided answer to the story’s central mystery proves more confounding than enlightening—gaffes that moderately interfere with Miri’s eventually touching, low-key portrait of individual integrity and courage.
Score:Cast: Mohammad-Reza Foroutan, Niloofar Khoshkholgh, Hassan Poorshirazi, Maryam Boobani, Shahrokh Frootanian Director: Maziar Miri Screenwriter: Parviz Shahbazi Running Time: 74 min Rating: NR Year: 2005