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Director: Behnam Behzadi (The Rule of Accident, We Only Live Twice)
Cast: Alireza Aghakhani, Sahar Dolatshahi, Roya Javidnia, Ali Mosaffa, Setareh Pesyani and Shirin Yazdanbakhsh
Synopsis:Tehran's air pollution has reached maximum levels because of thermal inversion. Unmarried 30-something Niloofar lives with her aged mother, and stays busy with her alterations shop. When doctors insist that her mother must leave smoggy Tehran for her respiratory health, Niloofar's brother and family elders decide that she must also move away to accompany her mother. Niloofar is torn between family loyalty and living her own life and pursuing a potential love interest. She is the youngest and she has always obeyed their orders, but this time she must stand up for herself. "An upbeat tale of woman power."--Hollywood Reporter. Farsi, with English subtitles
Running Time: 84 Minutes (plus 8-10 minutes of trailers)
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An upbeat tale of woman power
by Deborah Young
The smog that envelopes the teeming metropolis of Tehran, graying out tall buildings and infecting peopleís lungs, becomes an ominous sign of the times in veteran director Behnam Behzadiís penetrating drama Inversion (Varoonegi.) Ostensibly referring to thermal inversion, a meteorological condition causing air pollution, itís a loaded term that also hints at the turning back of the casually exploited heroine as she rethinks things and starts making decisions on her own. If at first this looks like an object lesson in how Iranian women are taken for granted and used like chattel by any big brother in the vicinity, by the end of the story things have taken an upbeat turn, making for a satisfying and even surprising finale that could find limited release after its bow in Cannes Certain Regard.
This is about Iranís middle class, and even after the revolution that sanctified menís power over their wives, mothers and sisters, many women were able to find ways to express themselves. Niloofar (Sahar Dowlatshahi) is one of them. She owns and runs her late fatherís tailor shop which she is hoping to expand with new seamstresses. As she will later say, the shop is everything to her.
Her beautiful shining face and warm smile make it seem odd sheís never married, but in her late 30ís we find her still single and living with her widowed, ailing mother. Just when she hooks up with an old flame, a building constructor who has recently returned to Iran (the personable Ali Reza Aghakhani), her mother collapses with respiratory failure. The doctor, somewhat laughably, orders her to move to another city with no pollution. Without even consulting Niloofar, her brother Farhad (a punchy, glum Ali Mosaffa) and her married sister Homa (Roya Javidnia) decide that the most convenient arrangement (for them, of course) is for Niloofar and mom to move together. And since Niloofar will no longer be working, Farhad quickly arranges to sell her shop to pay his debts. One day she finds the door locked with all her sewing machines inside.
The depressing thing about the first act is how the sunny heroine meekly swallows her own desires and allows herself to be railroaded into major life-style changes, which are also likely to skewer her budding romance to Mr. Right. Watching it all happen is her teenage niece Saba, who looks up to aunt Niloofar as a liberated role model and now sees her life being trampled underfoot by her selfish relatives.
The dialogue-packed drama races along to the irritating music of ringing cell phones and messages. In a fine scene between Niloofar and her violent, high-handed brother, she reasonably asks why her opinion doesnít count and the tide begins to turn. In a nice twist, the mother herself forces the issue. She senses something is fishy when the relatives gathered around her sickbed piously proclaim that ďNiloofarís life and work is you, Mom.Ē
Typical for Iranian films these days, everyone is very secretive to the point of outright lies, and they beat around the bush when they should be facing up to facts. The constant phone calls that circle the drama like mosquitoes only make matters worse.
The supporting cast lends strong support, particularly Shirin Yazdanbakhsh as the mother and the wide-eyed Setareh Hosseini as young Saba, who sees all the games the adults are playing.