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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Movie Review - About Elly

About Elly (Darbâreye Eli) 
(US Release: 2015/Original Release: 2009)
Starring Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Mani Haghighi, Merila Zarei, Peyman Moaadi, Ahmad Mehranfar, Rana Azadivar, and Saber Abar
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

There aren't too many directors anymore whom I make a point of seeing their films simply because they stepped behind the lens.  However, after 2011's fantastic A Separation and 2013's slightly less fantastic, but still very good The Past, Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi is one such guy.  Also a screenwriter, Farhadi crafts family melodramas with moments of slight Hitchcockian suspense that emanate from aspects of Iranian culture and the psychologies that accompany that society.  About Elly continues this tradition.  "Continues" is perhaps an incorrect verb, however, as About Elly was Farhadi's second film which, while filmed in 2009, finally received a US release in 2015 following the success of his last two features.  (Farhadi's debut feature - Fireworks Wednesday - just was released this year -- nearly ten years after its actual Iranian premiere and I'll certainly be placing that in my queue.)  Nevertheless, About Elly is a tale strongly steeped in the values from where it takes place -- values that create problems for the film's characters that may not have occurred had the story been transplanted to another country.

Eight adults converge on a beach house for a weekend vacation.  Three couples (and their young kids) along with their single, newly divorced friend Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini) have known each other for several years, but Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani) has decided to invite along her child's preschool teacher Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) for the weekend in an attempt to lighten the teacher's seemingly sullen spirits by introducing her to Ahmad.  While Elly is appreciative, she proves to be shy and a bit secretive.  Her reactions become all the more confusing to the group when she goes missing one afternoon.  Where has she gone and why has she left?

As the story unfolds largely via dialog, the layers of the tale are slowly revealed to the audience and to the characters that make up About Elly and those characters react in ways that are intrinsically believable and unique.  The less known going in, the better, but About Elly isn't about surprise reveals or big "moments."  Instead, we glimpse the reality of Iranian life as the women and men come to grips with how a more regimented society can react to certain aspects of a looser, less conservative culture.  With an incredibly talented cast headed by the aforementioned Farahani who captivates, About Elly doesn't quite reach the exquisitely dramatic moments of writer-director Farhadi's A Separation, but it shows another glimpse of how Farhadi is able to craft drama and individualized characters that are inherently steeped in his culture, yet make them accessible to all audiences.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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