It’s hard not to feel despondent after watching this luminous but bleak story of poverty set on the isolated Hormuz Island in the Persian Gulf.
Hormoz (Hamed Alipour) is 16 and has married Hendi (Zohreh Eslami), who is 13, on the advice of the mine manager, who says he will hire him if he’s more of a man. Hormoz’s father is dead and it seems the only way to get workis through family connections. All Hendi is interested in is school and it takes time for her to form a tentative friendship with her husband. Her school principal is disapproving and when Hendi falls pregnant, she is expelled lest she corrupt her classmates. Hormoz can’t seem to get a break and with the bravado and naivete of a teenager, he’s unable to find a solution that will allow him to earn a living.
Director Abbas Amini does a good job at letting this difficult story unfold and the two leads are outstanding. Hormuz Island seems to be a backwater, reliant on fishing and the spectacular red soil that is mined and exported. The soil taints everything, changing the sand and surf with a blood-like stain. In contrast, Hendi is like an iridescent jewel within the desolation, with the saffron and turquoise of her robes and her implacable gaze. She has a strength and fierceness that Hormoz lacks and a maturity that would have saved them, if she was a man. As a woman she has a little agency and you wonder where her education will take her, what choices she will ultimately have.
There are no warring houses or grand passion but this reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, two teenagers whose lives are doomed from the start.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.