Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi burst onto the scene in 2011 with “A Separation,” a masterful Chekhovian drama that won him an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and earned raves as one of the best films of the first half of the decade. (The A.V. Club put it second after “The Master.”) His follow-up, “The Past,” played at the Cannes Film Festival, where star Berenice Bejo won a richly-deserved Best Actress prize. Farhadi has another film out this week, only it isn’t a new one: “About Elly” played the festival circuit in 2009 but is only just now seeing a Stateside release.
The film covers the disappearance of a kindergarten teacher after a near-drowning of one of the children. While the film’s plot has earned comparisons to Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura,” “About Elly” is more concerned with how people caught in the middle of a terrible situation blame others and hold back the full truth in order to deflect blame themselves. Farhadi is concerned with human nature, with the reasons behind people’s lies, and with how people fall apart when disaster strikes. If it isn’t quite on the level of his subsequent masterworks, it still shows him growing into one of the finest dramatists working today.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com
“Opening spaces” is precisely what Farhadi’s films do, both literally and figuratively. Indeed, the various ways great Iranian directors articulate visual space comprise one of the most fascinating and significant dimensions of Iranian cinema, from the contemplative and symbolic uses in some films to the poetic and documentary-like in others. Read more.
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Matt Prigge, Metro
Scott Tobias, The Dissolve