About Elly

Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi.
Starring: Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini, Peyman Moadi, Taraneh Alidoosti, Mani Haghighi, Merila Zare’i, Ra’na Azadivar, Ahmad Mehranfar, Saber Abar,

“A bitter end is better than a never ending bitterness”

As he’s a director that has taken me some time to catch up with, I thought I’d just dive right in with a back-to-back trilogy of highly acclaimed, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. I’ve heard a lot about his Best Picture winning Foreign Language films, The Salesman in 2016 and 2011’s A Separation but it was actually by pure happenstance that I stumbled onto About Elly. This is a film that would normally have slipped under the radar for me – as it has for many – but it was a great introduction to Farhadi’s approach to filmmaking and his undeniable ability to maintain control and pacing throughout his films.

Plot: A group of Iranian friends take a short holiday to the shore of the Caspian Sea. Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), the teacher of one of their daughters, comes along to meet a teacher who’s visiting Iran from Germany. Things turn sour, however, when Elly goes missing.

Farhadi begins his film very simply by introducing his numerous cast of characters as they arrive at their beach villa accommodation for a weekend retreat. In the opening scenes he leads us into a very basic set-up that’s dialogue driven and fairly generic and uneventful. In fact, you may even question whether the film is entirely for you as it looks like it’s not really going anywhere but this is only the beginning of Farhadi’s complete control over his material. He builds layer upon layer to his film and to his characters that it’s only through time that you begin to start understanding the dynamics among them. Needless to say, there’s a plot development that turns the whole narrative on its head and before you know it, what began as an innocent gathering, soon descends into a very gripping mystery that has you guessing and wondering alongside the characters.

Farhadi originally had a background in theatre which shows when look at how he handles his actors and the wonderful performances he draws from them. He affords each the actors the space to develop their roles and no matter how small, neither of them fade into the background or are just there to fill in the gaps. The friendships and relationships between these characters are palpable and that’s what brings the edge to Farhadi’s film. These people and the resulting effects of their innocent white lies are entirely believable and Farhadi masterfully teases out the personalities and the details.

The interplay and dynamics of the cast and the plot initially reminded me of those yesteryear, ‘friendship gathering’ films like Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill where the characters would come together and discuss their past and future but Farhadi brings a sociopolitical edge his film that also brings an astute insight into Iranian middle-class culture.

An orchestral piece of ensemble filmmaking that operates as both a gripping psychological drama and a commentary on the sexual politics of Iranian culture. Asghar Farhadi isn’t afraid to tackle these cultural difficulties through the tension and guilt that his characters face. There’s a lot of quality on display and Farhadi’s ability to wring out suspense from the most basic of ideas is absolutely absorbing. This is a film that’s demanding of more attention and I can only hope that as Farhadi’s reputation grows that this film will eventually reach a wider audience. – (Next up in my Farhadi trilogy is The Salesman.)

Mark Walker

Trivia: According to director Asghar Farhadi, the film was not accepted into one Japanese film festival, since the movie’s depiction of Iran was quite different from the idea that most foreign (especially Western) people tend to have of this country.

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6 Responses to “About Elly”

  1. I loved this movie! Ugh, I can’t believe this is, as of now, the only Asghar Farhadi movie Ive seen. I couldn’t have said it better myself, his ability to build tension and absorbing drama out of basic situations is incredible. I can’t wait for your thoughts on The Salesman. I think that will have to be my next move too.

    Really sad to read that about that Japanese film festival though. Shame on them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m happy to hear that you’ve seen it, man. I haven’t came across anyone who’s seen it yet. It’s a marvellous film isn’t it? Farhadi really is as good as critics have made him out. I’m a huge fan now and I couldn’t get enough of him after seeing this. Like you say, his abilities are incredible. I had no idea where this film was going at one point but I love how Farhadi can really pull the rug from under you and take his films in a different direction than what you first thought.

      Like

  2. Nice review Mark. It’s unfortunate this flew under the radar in 2009; I caught it when it was released here in the US in 2015. Regardless, it’s a great film, and one of my favorites by Farhadi.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was my introduction to Farhadi as i caught it by pure chance on late-night TV. I was hooked instantly and that’s what led me to check out Farhadi’s other work. Just got a hold of The Past and Fireworks Wednesday as well but yet to watch them.

      By the way, I haven’t seen you posting in a while? Are you still active on the blogosphere or is it just my tardiness?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I blog when I can, though right now it’s a bit difficult for me to write. I am though going to this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May, and am hoping to see Farhadi’s Everybody Knows.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice, man. Cannes will be such a treat. Good for you. It’s an added bonus that you’ll get to see Farhadi’s latest as well. Let me know as soon as you see it. I want to hear more.

        Liked by 1 person

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