Stars: Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Elmira Rafizadeh, Arash Marandi, Alireza Bayram
This bold and visually striking rotoscoped animated drama explores sex, drugs and hypocrisy in contemporary Iran via three troubled protagonists. We begin with a jolt as we encounter prostitute Pari (Rafizadeh) giving a blow job in a car to one of her clients while her son sits in the back. No downtrodden victim she though; rather a streetwise, doughty and essentially decent woman making the best of a harrowing history. Her husband was a drug addict, but unable to get his signature on the divorce papers Pari has had to make a deal with a corrupt judge to secure lodgings for her and her son. Her neighbour and new friend Sara (Ebrahami) is a respectable middle-class woman expecting her first baby. She wishes to start a career to escape from her in-laws’ house but her banker husband Mohsen (Bayram) wants her to remain home as a housekeeper and mother. Babak (Marnadi) is a talented and handsome young musician making ends meet working in a hedonistic nightclub. After a one-night stand with a beautiful woman, she confesses to him that she was a virgin and pressurises him for the money for vaginal reconstructive surgery before her wedding to a local heavy. The trio are vividly realised with Rafizdeh the undoubted highlight, transcending tart-with-a-heart stereotype as the fearlessly practical Pari. Venturing where a live action film would be unable to tread, the imaginative rotoscope animation (in which live action is traced over), imbues the visuals with an intoxicatingly lurid and noirish feel, and the script is genuinely illuminating about life in Iran, particularly when illustrating the minor quotidian privations and ethical and legal shortcuts the characters need to take. So it’s a shame that the picture gets a little over-heated and melodramatic in the last stretch.