About Elly (2009)

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If you have yet to see a Farhadi film, please go out and see one. He is a master at deftly weaving a story that propels you into a world both foreign and heart-breakingly familiar. About Elly, like A Separation and The Past, drops you into the middle of the ordinary dramas of a group of middle class Iranians.

A group of friends is heading for a weekend on the coast. There are two couples, a few kids, a brother and sister and a divorced man, Ahmad (Farhadi regular Shahab Hosseini). All have known each other for a long time as evidenced by their easy banter. Married Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani, seen recently in Paterson) has brought along her daughter’s teacher Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) in an obvious effort to matchmake her with Ahmad. The group unsubtly tease him and make much of the romantic potential of the couple.

We know little about Elly. She seems amiable enough but keeps herself slightly aloof from the group and we hear her make secret plans over the phone to leave after one night. Then an event happens that throws all into disarray. The character of each person is revealed and notions of guilt, culpability, pride, fear and loyalty are explored. To tell you much more would ruin the emotional impact of the film.

Farhadi uses long takes and keeps the camera moving from room to room as the characters walk in and out of the story. The feeling is of being immersed in their world with the constant flux and inexorable pull of expectations and emotions. Although this is Iran, with headscarves and misogyny and masculine bravado, the dynamics of the friendships and the arc of the story are devastatingly ordinary and recognisable.

As with Fireworks Wednesday (review to come), one character is the central point of the story and here it is not Elly but Sepideh. Although each character is faced with choices, it is her’s, in the final moments of the film, that you suspect causes the most significant and devastating change.

Currently screening as part of a Farhadi retrospective at ACMI in Melbourne.

Bechdel test – pass
5 stars

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