Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian writer-director with a knack for profound dramas (“About Elly”, “A Separation”, “The Past”), returns with “The Salesman”, another heartfelt story branded with uncomfortable dualities. The nature of this tale, set and shot in Tehran, will make you ponder about what’s right and wrong, and confront you with a few moral questions that bear on justice, compassion, forgiveness, and retaliation.
Emad (Shahab Hosseini) is a well-liked teacher who shares a huge passion for theater with his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti). They star in Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman”, putting every drop of inspiration on their roles. Even in the play, they are husband and wife, impersonating Willy and Linda Loman.
The building where they live is about to collapse due to adjacent construction and structural deficiencies, forcing them to an immediate evacuation. With no place to go, they accept the help of a fellow actor, Babak (Babak Karimi), who finds them an apartment that just got unoccupied. The woman who lived there before had a bad reputation. She left all her belongings in the apartment due to some last-minute difficulties.
One night, while Rana was bathing, someone rings the buzz. Convinced it was Emad, who had left minutes before to go to the neighboring supermarket, she opens the door and returns to the bathroom. To her surprise, she’s violently assaulted by a stranger who, on the run, left a pair of socks on the floor, some money, and his car keys in the apartment.
Rana was taken to the hospital, returning emotionally debilitated, yet unwilling to report the case to the police. Not even the theater seems to help her to overcome the situation. However, little by little, she starts giving signs of recovery.
In turn, for better and for worse, Emad keeps trying to identify the offender through the pickup he left outside, elaborating a plan to have his revenge.
The final part brings revelations and resolutions that lead to a whirlwind of internal conflicts and emotions.
As habitual, Farhadi settles on a ferocious realism conveyed through a credible acting, intelligent narrative simplicity, and mordant irony. He became a true master in this nuanced passive-aggressive style.
The performances of Hosseini and Alidoosti, Farhadi’s frequent and reliable choices, are irreproachable as they were in previous works.
“The Salesman” might not be as striking as “The Separation”, since it’s a slightly more manipulative, but it’s a powerful piece of cinema that authenticates Farhadi as the most predominant contemporary Iranian filmmaker.
ABOUT FILIPE FREITAS
Filipe Freitas is a New York-based Portuguese film critic and jazz music writer.
He’s the founder and lead critic of Always Good Movies film website, launched in 2010, and co-founder of JazzTrail , site that explores the vibrant NY Jazz Scene. He has a background in electrical engineering, which he quit in 2012 to follow his dreams.