Quick Synopsis: Rahim Soltani (Amir Jadidi) is out of debtors prison on weekend release. His partner found a bag full of gold and they plan to use it pay off his debts. When they find out it’s not enough to cover the debt, Rahim pretends he found it and tries to track down the owner and make use of good publicity.
Ah man, I wish I did some research before watching this. I liked this film, it was an engaging story and it was very well written. But the director/writer stole it from a student in a class he was teaching. It’s very heavily (by which I mean, it’s practically the same story) as a documentary made by Azadeh Masihzadeh whilst she was a student in a workshop being taught by Farhadi. Farhadi forced Masihzadeh to sign a document saying that the idea was all his. So yeah, the writer/director is a prick, and I don’t want to praise him, but I have to. If this film was terrible I could make jokes about how much I hated it, and how not only is he bereft of morality, but he’s also bereft of talent. If it was mediocre, I could ignore it like I have one or two other films. But this is too good to ignore. It’s a very human story about the nature of doing good, and whether the motives of a good deed affect the altruism of the act. It also has a lot to say about how people respond to good deeds: with people lining up to exploit the act until it gets out of hand and the person who does the act no longer has ownership of how it’s perceived.
As much as he is a prick, Farhadi is a good director, knowing exactly when to let silence happen. The opening has barely any dialogue, it’s possible it had none, I’m not just confident enough to say that for certain. Most of the opening 5 minutes is just him walking to meet someone, but the locations are so beautiful that you’re not bored watching it. The long walk also highlights just how determined he is, plus he’s just got out of prison, so he’s probably just enjoying the smell of fresh air instead of the smell of rape and pee corners (it’s why I don’t take late trains from Kings Cross). The character is played by Amir Jadidi, and he’s the entire anchor the film is based around. His character could come off as someone who is self-serving and selfish (and he kind of is, but never in a way that makes him unlikeable), or he could come off as pitiful and pathetic. Jadidi makes him someone you want to root for, he’s very likeable and charming, in situations that he started but are now out of his control. It’s essentially an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, just without the laughs. His relationship with his girlfriend feels very natural too. They have really good chemistry and the scenes of them together on screen are lovely to watch. It’s a relationship you can buy into easily, you can see why they’d do the things for each other that they do.
The background characters are all well-portrayed too. Even the person he owes money to, the person who is, for all intents and purposes, the antagonist, is seen as sympathetic. He’s (rightly) annoyed that Jadidi’s character is seen as a hero just for handing the bag back in, he doesn’t see why that’s a good thing, and not just, you know, normal. His frustration that the person who owes him A LOT of money is being held up as a paragon of virtue, meanwhile he’s seen as the bad guy for, you know, wanting the money he is owed.
So in summary, watch it, just try to ignore how horrifying the concept of “debtors prisons” are in the first place.