of us saw it way back at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, but the anticipated
distribution of Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly hit a bit of a snag. Long story short, it only recently opened at Film
Forum, well after A Separation triumphed
at the Oscars. It still holds up. In fact, it is worth revisiting anew
considering the extent director-screenwriter Nima Javidi’s feature debut feels
like a direct response and an intentional one-upping of Farhadi’s film.
Regardless of thematic similarities, Javidi’s Melbourne has its own distinctive identity. Los Angeles patrons can
judge that to their own satisfaction this Friday when Melbourne (trailer
here) screens as part of the soon to conclude
UCLA Celebration of Iranian Film.
and Sara are a promising young couple who are leaving Tehran for three years of
post-grad study in the titular Melbourne. No seriously, they are really coming
back. So they constantly reassure friends and family—and initially they
probably really mean it. They are a whirlwind of activity packing and closing
up their flat, but they agree to do a favor for a neighbor without really
thinking very much about. Unfortunately, this will lead to tragedy.
drops the bomb in the first act, but it surely makes for a better viewing
experience if you are not anticipating it. The Elly reference is enough of a hint. There will be considerable
recriminations exchanged by Amir and Sara, before their suspicions start
turning elsewhere. Regardless of blame, they just can’t own up to the
situation. Therefore, they just keep digging themselves a deeper hole with each
Javidi is dealing with essentially one set, Melbourne
never feels stagey because of the skillfulness with which he directs the
constant traffic in and out of the flat. Sound is also a crucial element to the
film’s mounting intensity, with each ringing cellphone, landline, and intercom
further jangling the audience’s nerves. It is enough to make you pull your
hair, right along with Amir and Sara.
Sara, Negar Javaherian is so realistic and so painfully conflicted, the
headscarf she is forced to wear practically disappears. It is a truly universal
performance, yet Payman Moaadi (whose credits include Elly, A Separation, and the unlikely Last Knights) is even more devastating alongside her. His work in
the closing sequence has a quiet power that is hard to shake off.
Maybe you think you know where Melbourne is headed and strictly speaking
you might be right (Australia, maybe?), but it is a draining journey. Javidi
shows tremendous talent and even greater potential, but many of the reviews and
the festival poster are too spoilery, so perhaps this should be your final word
on the film if you ever plan to see it. Highly recommended, Melbourne screens this Friday (5/15) at
the Billy Wilder Theater, as part of the UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema,
also including Rakshan Bani-Etemad’s equally powerful Tales on Saturday (5/16).
Labels: Iranian Cinema, Payman Moaadi, UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema