Director: Farnoosh Samadi
Writer: Farnoosh Samadi
Cast: Sahar Dolatshahi, Pejman Jamshidi
Producer: Ali Mosaffa
Cinematography: Masood Salami
Editor: Meysam Molaei
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 83mins
What’s the story: In present day Tehran, military man Hamed (Jamshidi) forbids his schoolteacher wife Sara (Dolatshahi) from attending a wedding in northern Iran without him. She and their young daughter go without his knowledge, but a terrible event occurs.
What’s the verdict: Farnoosh Samadi’s debut feature makes her a filmmaker of promise. But a midpoint stumble into tragedy overheats 180° Rule, much as a pan of water symbolically boils over in the opening shot.
The 180° rule is a filmmaking practice that creates consistent, understandable space between characters. But, for women in Iran space between themselves and others is rarely consistent or understandable. Bound by strict religious and societal laws, Samadi’s film says they are judged and routinely found wanting.
The opening half, as Sara journeys to the mountain wedding against Hamed’s wishes, carries the simmering tension of a horror film, compounded by wintry visuals and a bass-heavy strings score. An unexpected comparison here is Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, and Samadi seems to strike cinematic gold in depicting everyday oppression of Iranian women through a horror lens.
But, that tip into tragedy shatters the well-crafted tension and robs 180° Rule of any nuance. Better would have been to restrict the tragedy to a second, late-in-the-day occurrence that shows Sara’s good intentions crumble under the country’s patriarchal prejudices. Sadly, by this point we’re into Lars von Trier levels of victimised femininity, with an ending that should be heartbreaking ending up slightly aggravating.
What cannot be criticised is Dolatshahi’s first-class performance of compassionate resilience, broken duplicity and silent trauma. A scene in which she has a violent physical reaction to her world collapsing truly astonishes.
Samadi would do well to partner with the actor again.