I almost liked this Iranian film. I wanted to like it. Jafar Panahi directed a couple of films I really liked – Crimson Gold and The White Balloon. In this one, he is in the centre of the story, playing himself and driving a taxi whilst filming. It is set up as if it is a documentary but it’s obvious that it is fictional and his passengers are (reportedly non-professional and uncredited) actors. It works well at the start, with a rough and authentic feel as people hop in and out, talking and arguing with each other. A man jumps in who recognises Panahi and so we realise who he is and that this is a docudrama.
The context of this film is important. Panahi was banned from film making for 20 years and this is his third film since the ban was lifted. The other two were filmed in his home and this one is filmed solely in the taxi. It could be read as a metaphor for the limitations placed on him and his insistence on continuing to represent the Iranian people.
My problem with it is that it became a bit too self-referential and after the first few characters, began to flag in pace and interest. The young girl was particularly grating and her role a bit heavy handed. The ending seemed excruciatingly slow for me and I was saying “Cut!”, “Cut!” for the last ten minutes, albeit in my head.