January 8, 2017 -- A young woman, about to be married, takes a job as a maid to a married couple and ends up in the middle of a major, complicated emotional battle between her employers. This drama ratchets up the tension to high levels before this story finally winds its way to a conclusion, of sorts. This is a 2006 Iranian movie that finally got released in the U.S. last year.
The winsome young bride-to-be, Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti of “About Elly”) has a smile that lights up the room, and an easy laugh that we see when her flowing garment, called a chador, gets caught in the rear wheel of a motorcycle. Her fiancliché, Abdolreza (Houman Seyyedi) is angry as he tries to untangle the mess, but he can't stay mad at her long and the two end up laughing, throwing snowballs. That chador of Rouhi's later becomes an important part of the plot.
Rouhi reports for her first day of work at an apartment that a married couple and their son have just moved into. The building is inside a wall and locked gate which can be unlocked remotely, but the doorbell system is not working, so she contacts a neighbor to let her in. She arrives in the middle of a heated argument between the husband, Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) who hired her, and his shrewish wife Mojdeh (Hediyeh Tehrani) who does not want Rouhi around. Mojdeh is perpetually angry and Morteza is perpetually trying to calm her.
In a strange series of contradictory actions, Mojdeh pays off Rouhi and orders her to leave the apartment, then changes her mind and runs out to the street to get her back. She puts Rouhi to work as a kind of spy, arranging for Rouhi to visit to a neighbor, Simin, a divorced woman running a kind of illicit hairdressing business in her apartment. Mojdeh is obsessed with the idea that Morteza is cheating on her with Simin.
As the story unfolds, we learn there was a recent violent argument between Mojdeh and Morteza in which he became so angry he broke the window with his fist, cutting himself. Mojdeh appears almost deranged with jealously over the supposed affair. She listens at a ventilation shaft in the bathroom, trying to overhear conversations among other tenants. She checks the phone to see who has called the apartment. She threatens to leave Morteza and take their young child, Amir-Ali Samii (Matin Heydarnia) with her.
The longer Rouhi hangs around Mojdeh, the more she gets caught up in Mojdeh's schemes to unmask her husband's supposed infidelity. As agreed, she goes to Simin's salon to have her eyebrows plucked, and finds Simin to be warm and friendly. She likes Simin, and she likes Morteza, too, and she doesn't want to cause trouble for them, so she finds herself telling small lies to keep them out of trouble with the shrewish Mojdeh, who seems more than a bit crazy.
As the long day wears on, the situation between Mojdeh and Morteza gets more tense until a violent public spectacle erupts at Morteza's place of work. Both Morteza and Mojdeh end up lying to Rouhi and using her in their schemes. The truth of what is really going on is hard for Rouhi to discern, but she begins to believe that she has wrongly judged both Morteza and Mojdeh.
Eventually, the truth is revealed to Rouhi, and to the audience, but it is not the kind of truth that sets them free. It is more like an uneasy truce. I was thinking to myself when I saw Rouhi paid off and let go by Mojdeh, that she should have just kept walking down the street and not turned around when Mojdeh called to her from a distance. It turns out that, indeed, would have been the smart move.
This is a very well acted film by the three main actors mentioned above. Because of language and cultural differences between Iran and the U.S., the relationships between the major characters and some of the minor characters was unclear to me, and that kind of muddied up the plot for me, but the central part of the story (by writer-director Asghar Farhadi of “A Separation”) is powerful. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.