Nearly every film that comes to us from Iran seems to recognize its culture and people as living in a perpetual state of flux, an angle that seems unconsciously built into the DNA of these films. For Bahman Ghobadi, the relentlessness of life in Iran is a horrifying matter of fact—for others, like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami, it’s sometimes an area of subversive critique. Persistence is everything in Asghar Farhadi’s visually undistinguished but affecting Beautiful City, a simple film about the power of forgiveness. Neither unremitting nor detached, it represents something of an anomaly for the Iranian film we’re typically used to seeing; its casual manner and openness may or may not win it many fans, but it’s this very relaxed vision and delivery that works to legitimize it. The film opens in a juvenile detention facility where a young boy, Akbar (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh), awaits execution for murdering his girlfriend when he was 16. In the outside world, Ala (Babak Ansari), a petty thief let out of prison for good behavior, helps Akbar’s sister, Firoozeh (Taraneh Alidoosti), to secure the clemency Akbar needs from the father of the girl he killed. Context is uprooted during the natural flow of conversation; information such as Akbar’s former days as a prostitute and her ex-husband’s drug use is treated with minimal hysteria; and insight into the punitive nature of the Islamic judicial system and how readily people hold the fates of others in their hands is effortlessly entwined with the storyline of Ala and Firoozeh’s bourgeoning romance. Every decision in the film hinges on a form of sacrifice—a struggle to do what is right without necessarily compromising one’s values. The film’s hopefulness is matched only by its goodness, and its message is one we could all stand to learn.
- Sheherazad Media International
- 101 min
- Asghar Farhadi
- Asghar Farhadi
- Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Ansari, Faramarz Charibian, Hossein Farzi-Zadeh, Ahu Kheradmand
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