Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
First seen racing on a dusty motocross track, Azar (Niki Karimi), the title character of Mohammad Hamzei’s debut feature, isn’t exactly the conventional ideal wife, at least not in Iran. She’s confident, capable, and deeply committed to the fledgling pizza restaurant she runs with her husband, Amir (Hamidreza Azarang), but she’s a little too progressive for some tastes. So when a terrible tragedy threatens the future of both Amir and the business, she ends up paying the price. It’s a forceful, deeply felt snapshot of gender inequality in contemporary Iran.
Like the trademark moral quagmires of Asghar Farhadi, the film pivots on an irreparable, ostensibly clear-cut accident that only grows murkier as Hamzei weaves through the cramped rooms and urban spaces of Persian society. Navigating the traditions, personal impulses and plain hypocrisies of those involved—chiefly, those of Amir’s uncle (Farid Sajjadi Hosseini), who was to provide a much-needed business loan—Hamzei creates a web of competing agendas from which there is no clean escape. ("Why don’t you say anything?" Azar’s sympathetic mother-in-law asks her. But her tearful silence speaks volumes.) It’s a portrait of a woman beset at every turn, until all that remains is an image of shuttering blinds and fading light; a domestic drama with a resigned air and a pointed, mournful sting.