Raheel

Raheel, an Afghan national, travels illegally to Iran to search for her husband, but meets problems that leave her no hope.

SFR Awards 2019: Best actor (f), best cinematography,

Genre: Drama

Length: 29:59

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Ayat Asadi Rahbar,

Director/s : Ayat Asadi Rahbar, 

Writer/s : Ayat Asadi Rahbar, 

Actor/s : Darya Azimi, 

 

Comfort of strangers

A gentle opening view across a nighttime city. The mood is undercut as a woman stands on a bridge over a motorway, on the wrong side of the barrier. Close up to her hand, gripping it. Letting go. And cut, to someone falling. It’s Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age films, on a TV screen.

This is fine filmmaking. We’re in safe hands.

We learn why Raheel is on that bridge, through the exasperated taxi-driver Siroos, who picked her up the previous night. He didn’t want to take her where she wanted to go, but couldn’t just leave her at the deserted taxi-stand. When that address proves fruitless, he tries to find somewhere for her to stay.

Her problems escalate horrifically, and she only relaxes when talking to his son (the one who was watching Ice Age), after Siroos brings her to his home. The only minor quibble is the absence of Siroos’s wife here, as contact between two women would have deepened the story further.

Next day, Raheel finds her husband, and tragically wishes she hadn’t.

Darya Azimi is superb as Raheel, her body taut with nervousness, her eyes fearfully moving like a small cornered animal’s, portraying hope, determination, and desperation. These three emotions underpin the film, right up to the point when we are back with her on that bridge. Then the closing seconds reverse what seemed an inevitable conclusion, and a fourth theme, of compassion, returns.

Ayat Rahbar’s direction calmly understates small but vital moments, such as the background TV news subtly telling us why Raheel had to leave Afghanistan. In this, and his control of mood and pace, Rahbar has surely been influenced by fellow Iranian Asghar Farhadi. The master would not feel let down.

[Full film is not available – the screener is the trailer.]