Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Review: "The Salesman" (2016)

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Movie"The Salesman"
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Year: 2016
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Shortly after moving into a new apartment, unaware of the profession of the previous tenant, a man returns home from the store to find his wife has been assaulted. Now, he starts his own investigation to find out who is responsible while she battles the fear and pain stemming from the incident. 

"The Salesman" is written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, who is best known for his Oscar winning film "A Separation." It stars Shahab Hosseini as Emad Etesami, a teacher and community theater actor, as well as Taraneh Alidoosti, who plays his wife Rana. Along with her husband, Rana is performing in the production of "Death of a Salesman" at the local playhouse. The two have had a tough time recently as the building they used to live in has started to come apart at the seams, forcing them to vacate before the building had a chance to fall down. Now, with no place to live, a fellow actor named Babak, played by Babak Karimi, rents them an apartment, though he fails to mention to them the previous tenant was a prostitute. One day while Emad is at the store, Rana gets a ring at the security door. Thinking it's her husband returning home, she buzzes the person in before hopping in the shower. It turns out, it is not her husband at all, but a former client of the previous tenant who assaults Rana upon finding her in the shower. When Emad discovers what has happened, he is determined to find out who did it and serve an appropriate justice to said individual.

"The Salesman" is a thrilling, bold, and emotional film. It deals with assault and possibly rape in a conservative theocracy like Iran. We say "possibly" because Farhadi does not show the assault on screen, but based on conversations and the actions of the characters in the film, we assume this is the case. Taraneh Alidoosti puts on a magnificent performance as a once-outgoing woman traumatized by a terrible experience. We really feel her internal struggle and start to understand her apprehension about going to the police. She is worried and scared how she will be treated as victims of assaults often get the blame dumped on them for their failure to take preventative measures. She is terrified that the authorities will not accept her answer as to why she buzzed the assailant into her home. It is very apparent that public shame is a huge part of this culture, and Rana is always worried about what her neighbors think about the incident, about her, about her husband, etc. This performance is extremely realistic and played perfectly. Also putting on a fantastic performance is Shahab Hosseini, who is powerful and nuanced as a man who wants revenge, but also wants to be there for his wife and is torn between what he wants more.

"The Salesman" is an engaging movie and we remained completely compelled by not just the whodunit mystery of it all, but also in the seeking of closure, the reclaiming of power via revenge or forgiveness, and the potential loss of honor via public shaming by the main characters. It's no wonder this was nominated for and won best foreign language film at this year's Academy Awards. It is a well written and wonderfully directed piece of cinema that gives us a look into a culture that, as Americans, we aren't always the most familiar with, and we can see in the end we aren't all that different. It is definitely worth seeking out, especially if you're into foreign language films.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!.

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