Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Wedlock (orig. Zendegi Moshtarak-e Aghaye Mahmoodi va Banoo) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing*

The Wedlock (orig. Zendegi Moshtarak-e Aghaye Mahmoodi va Banoo) [2013] [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]* (directed by Rouhullah Hejazi [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*, screenplay by Ali Telebabadi [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*) is (as far as I could see...) a very well-written, well acted and certainly quite thought-provoking (for _everyone_) contemporary Iranian urbanite/upper middle class "family drama" piece that played recently at the 24th Annual Festival of Films from Iran held recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

The entire film takes place in the very nice, upper middle class home of a middle-aged urbanite (I'm guessing Tehran) couple -- of a traditional (and liking it...) had-some-college (majored in Persian poetry) yet stay-at-home wife/mother Mohaddeseh (played by Hengameh Ghaziani [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*), her more amiable, salt-and-pepper haired/mustached, some kind of professional, bread-winning husband Mansour (played by Hamid Farrokhnejad [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*) and their ipod-listening, at times eyes-rolling, talk-backing (hence quite normal...) yet still largely wide-eyed, innocent 14 year old daughter Negin (played by Tarlan Parvaneh [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*).

For not particularly clear reasons, they decide that their home could use some renovations.  The couple may be seeing their daughter getting older (and thus realizing that they are getting older), they may feel that their lives are a somewhat stagnant, or just feel "a yen to do something."  Why do upper middle class families in the United States decide "to redo the house" or "the kitchen" or whatever?  Whatever the reason, they've decided to do this, to renovate the house a bit.  And they decide to do it in a manner that a lot of nice families all across the world often decide: "Why not let [a random relative] 'who's in that business' do it?"  So they invite a niece, Mohaddeseh's sister's mid 20-something daughter Sameh (played by Taraneh Alidoosti [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*), who's apparently some sort of an interior designer, over to begin the job.

Well, it's been a while since they've seen their quite independent, university educated, "somewhat of an artist type" niece who now has an interior decorating business.  So after the initial smiles (she was apparently quite well remembered from when she was, well ... perhaps 14-year-old Negin's age... ;-), Sameh kinda stuns everybody by bringing over a guy named Ramtin (played by Peyman Ghassemkhani [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*) to help her with doing the initial measurements for the job.

Now who the heck is Ramtin? ;-)

Well, he's something of a partner.  It becomes clear that he's definitely _more_.  Now 14-year-old Negin just loves this as she figures out that whatever the situation actually is between Sameh and Rantin it's bound to embarrass her mother, while in fact 40-something Mohaddeseh does kinda crumple into herself in despair.

How long has it been since they've seen Sameh?  Mohaddeseh remembers now that Sameh (her niece) and Sameh's mother (her sister) hadn't gotten along much in those years (about 5-10 years back) before Sameh's mother had died.  Now Mohaddeseh understood a bit of why the two didn't get along.  It's not that Ramtin was around when Sameh's mother / Mohadesseh's sister had died.  He wasn't.  But now Mohaddeseh remembered what kind of a "free spirit" Sameh had been in her early and mid-twenties.  And her daughter's just getting into that "teenage rebellious age" ;-).

Finally, the ever smiling, amiable Mansour (after all, he's supposed to be "the man of the house" ;-), and also one who appears to have always kinda liked Sameh when she was growing-up, decides to break the tension by asking: "So ... are you two married?"

They answer "No, not really" ;-).  Apparently, in contemporary Islamic Iran (as it also appeared to be in Biblical Israel/Palestine at the time of Jesus) marriage is two step process: Sameh and Rantin had taken their "Engagement vows" but not their full "Marriage vows." BUT they lied to their landlady and were essentially living together unmarried.  ("Where there's a will, there's a way..." apparently even in contemporary Iran ;-)

So Mansour (like amiable, regular/traditional folk all over) asks, "Why don't you two just get married?" to which Ramtin answers, "I'd get married to Sameh in a minute." It turns out that it's Sameh who really doesn't want to get married ;-)

Why?  The same conversation -- where EVERYBODY is at least PARTLY RIGHT (but then also where EVERYBODY is at least PARTLY WRONG) -- that we hear in this film taking place among the members of this very nice Shiite Muslim family in Tehran could be _easily_ be imagined taking place among many very nice parish (Catholic) families here in Chicago ;-)


* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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