Tuesday, February 21, 2017

[Review] The Salesman

Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi has built an acclaimed reputation crafting complex family dramas like About Elly and the Oscar-winning A Separation. His latest, The Salesman, continues that prestige. The film is a devastating portrait of an uprooted marriage--with it's crumbling trail of destruction leaving no easy answers.

Opening with an impressively chaotic long take within a collapsing apartment building as its occupants scramble to evacuate, we focus in on Emad (Shahab Hosseini), a teacher by day and stage performer by night, along with his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), who's also a performer (they're both cast in Death of a Salesman), as they subsequently move into a new place that's a bit of a fixer-upper. But the leaky bathroom isn't the worst of the problems. Apparently the previous tenant attracted some bad customers, and their mark hasn't been completely wiped away. I won't go into too much detail, but a violent intrusion occurs that sends to couple into a shaken down-spiral.

It's a slow-burner, at first playing like a psychological drama, dwelling in friction, trauma, and the paranoia of the event's aftermath. Things progressively shift seamlessly into a mystery-thriller with an engrossing revenge plot that contains some heart-racing beats that actually aren't so different from 2015's Palme d'Or winner Dheepan and even Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners.

The Salesman is tremendously acted all around, with leads Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti embodying these characters with nuance, depth, and a stunning sense of raw humanity. It all escalates into a masterfully intense and almost unbearably stressful climax that really piles on the complications, rendering the film as a hefty and well-wrought examination of the potent tragedy caused by life-damaging moments, blurred morality, and the high-stakes price of revenge.

* 9/10 *

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