About Elly (2009) – The Mysterious Disappearance of…

Written by Asghar Farhadi or well-known for his famous work called “A Separation“, “About Elly” is a thought-provoking drama like “A Separation”. Both films emphasize a complex question full of ambiguity between right and wrong. In a problem the characters face, of course, there is no answer to such things. This movie has a composition similar to foreign or non-English language films. However, Farhadi’s interest in highlighting the lives of the middle-class in Iran is his most favorite thing in this world.

The story centers on a friendly family. They spent three days vacationing in the Caspian Sea. There are Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani), her husband, Amir (Mani Haghighi), and her daughter. Sepideh is a person who has this holiday idea. There is Peyman (Payman Maadi) and his wife, Shohreh (Merila Zare’i), and their two children. And also there is Manoochehr (Ahmad Mehranfar) and his wife, Nazzi (Ra’na Azadivar). In the event, Sepideh wants to introduce her kid’s teacher, Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) to her friend who was just divorced, Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini). Sepideh only hopes that the two can get to know each other well and can be paired.

“About Elly” itself is like “A Separation”. It starts with the characters’ development and their life. The first introduction of the first act is also very long, about 40 minutes. When the movie starts to introduce the second act, it feels like you are watching a different movie. The film itself in the first half-hour still has not revealed the identity and the main conflict. Slowly, the film suddenly leaves a mystery behind everything. The mystery appears in the character Elly and her life.

Elly is a young girl, beautiful, friendly, cheerful, and others. She always shows an expression full of emptiness, as if there is a secret she was hiding. Her eyes and her blank expression were part of the mystery. It’s also hard when she doesn’t seem to have an interest in Ahmad and vice versa. The conflict began when Elly disappeared without a trace as if there had never been in the first place. At first, the son of Peyman was found drowning in the sea. Even though he survived, Elly, who was with him at the last moment, suddenly disappeared.

A common question culminates in Elly’s situation. They assume that Elly drowned while trying to save the kid. Eyewitness accounts of children also raise many doubts. In essence, Elly’s departure eventually led to a variety of assumptions. Problems escalated when family members questioned Elly’s identity. They also questioned Sepideh’s authority in inviting and making this holiday. Debates occur, some are right, some are wrong, and none of this is inevitable.

“About Elly” is not trying to find the right or wrong answer in this situation. Instead, it’s focused on the truth about Elly’s existence. Both “A Separation” and “About Elly” have the key to these conflicts. It’s a big role in how one problem can spread into new and rooted problems. Asghar Farhadi, through the script he wrote, tried to lift the human ego. It’s about these characters when the ego has mastered them completely. They seek justification and defense of themselves. They will even look for a scapegoat too.

A lot of people find it hard to get the first act. They find it pointless as well. One way how you can care about the movie you watch is how you present and introduce these characters. At first, you see them having fun, playing around, joking with each other, playing a game, and so on. However, when one problem began to emerge, their relationship began to escalate because of just which. For me, the more layers the director wants to tell you, the more you care about the movie and these characters. The starting point is beat and gambling. You have to put a strong yet attractive premise so that people didn’t come out and stop in the middle of the journey. This is one of the great examples of those movies.

In most of Farhadi’s works, there is a space on all of the characters. Literally and context, it works. It’s not a shot like most cinematic movie works. But, apart from this is also a socio-criticism, it involves a personal reflection. There is a symbolic potential in most of the scenes. It shot in a documentary-like also uses a hand-held camera. For instance, when the characters just got panic when they learned about Elly’s condition, all of the characters and the image ran to find the title card. It makes it seem noticeable when a glimpse of the sea and the beach is seen from the window, from the house together with the characters in the house.

This movie has an incredible lineup of casts. It’s natural and realistic as if everything is not a movie. It feels like they are executing a scene after scene and conversation after conversation without a script. With dynamic directions from Asghar Farhadi and the framing by Hossein Jafarian, I can say I prefer this movie to “A Separation”. I love both of the movies but there is a uniqueness of my own I witnessed from the director as well as a filmmaker. “About Elly” is a work by a masterful director.

5 out of 5 stars.

A Separation (2011) – Ugly Truth, Sweet Lies

“A Separation” captures the jitters of anxiety and matters if both sides have the truth and lie they must protect. It’s about a struggle in a middle-class family in Iran. Asghar Farhadi pointed out this social class problem in “Fireworks Wednesday”. In “A Separation”, he explores it seriously but gloomy with a raw, natural, and genuine performance by all of the actors. He presented how the two economic classes are equally problematic. They reach an end of resolution where they also never find where the climax was.

This film tells the story of a married couple, Nader (Payman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), who are about to divorce. They both have different reasons. Simin wants to move abroad because she thinks the country they live in has many problems. She thought that it would be more suitable to raise their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), in another country. On the other side, Nader rejects it with the excuse of having to keep his father affected by Alzheimer’s. In the middle of their relationship, Simin stayed at her mother’s house, making Nader frantically taking care of the house, Termeh, and his father. Because of that, he needed a housemaid. He invited Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to become the housemaid.

Razieh is a religious person. However, she also sometimes asked to stop because she was unable to take care of Nader’s father. For her, all of which is inappropriate. She sought a solution by offering her long-unemployed husband, Hojjat (Shahab Hosseini), to work in the place. The husband, unfortunately, didn’t come to the house because he was imprisoned. Razieh also had to endure a few more moments. Problems began to arise when Razieh left Nader’s father in the condition of his hands tied to the bed. Nader comes home to see his father slumped on the floor, furious, and expels Razieh for alleged theft. The debate began and Nader suddenly pushed her outside the house.

Asghar Farhadi, the writer-director, explored these characters’ study alternately on both sides. The key to this movie is to find which one deserves empathy. We understand why they have something they deserve to protect. They also don’t realize that something they were protecting was inappropriate. Both sides have something truthful but they only protect lies they cannot reveal. Farhadi put both of them without having to think who was wrong or right. Instead, he put us right in the middle of their conflict and problem. He made us part of one of the victims.

Nader and Simin have their respective intellectuals and finances. However, this divorce made one of their daughters also suffer. It’s just that the two of them never noticed. For Simin and Nader, the decision to divorce is easy to get out. But, they just never realize, understand, and see how this situation can change an existential person. Like the daughter, Termeh, who, in the end, inevitably has to choose with whom to live. Yet, choosing both parents means supporting the truth and lies of one of them also unconsciously.

Farhadi puts Razieh and Hojjat as a general description of how the economy is the problem area. Razieh is just obedient to religion. On the other hand, Hojjat the unemployed is always rude. Entwined with debt, to help finance, Razieh must work to fulfill their lives. The victims are children and parents in this film. The movie puts children in a closed room. In essence, parents don’t give them room in family matters. Just because you close the door and “lock-in” your kids in another room doesn’t mean they will forget the problem.

And well, it works well in this movie but we don’t need to see whether the victim is also certainly wrong or we are just the audience who can’t do anything. Termeh understands her parents and of course, she loves them both. However, Termeh also took steps that she thought were appropriate by not joining with her mother so that her mother could still change her mind. Likewise with Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini), Razieh’s five-year-old son, who likes to draw illustrations of her father and mother who often quarrel. They both have problems and connections with each other but they both know where they are.

This is a convincing and breathtaking movie and to say this movie came from Iran, it amazes me. To be honest, “A Separation” is the first Iranian film I watched and this is also my first time watching a film from Asghar Farhadi. He is well-known for his Oscars recognition and many of his films also get Oscars like this one. Farhadi put all of his actors naturally so we seemed to see an event in real-time. You don’t see a movie; you see a real-life tragedy put on a movie. And this is how movies aren’t just entertainment.

In “A Separation”, Asghar slaps us on the obvious fact that problems don’t only arise because of unwillingness. But, it also arises in our inability to choose the right choice. This movie doesn’t only show a real portrait of social life in Iran. Indeed, you never know that Iran is always known for its representation in American films. Still, I can’t believe there Aare films like this. It deals with the pain of reality, human feelings, and law. Sometimes, it’s about religion and punishment at the same time.

4.5 out of 5 stars.