The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi pulls off a remarkable feat in About Elly: he manages to morph a film that begins as a light comedy into a sombre and tense drama without compromising the story or entertainment value. The adventure starts with a trip to the Caspian Sea. It slowly emerges that Sepidah (Golshifteh Farahani) is trying to play matchmaker for the schoolteacher Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) and Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini), a divorcee who has been living in Germany. A booking mishap results in the group having to take some poor emergency accommodation and Elly shocks everyone by announcing that she has to return home. Sepidah tries to persuade her to stay and the fun tone turns sour when Elly disappears without explanation. A brilliant turn by Farahani (Body of Lies) makes the film. She starts off showing all the joys of life, but as she is slowly compelled to reveal some secrets about Elly, her mood and make-up become far more sinister. What seems like a light story soon turns into a complex canvas that touches upon issues from family disputes to gender relations. This is a tale of great emotional depth with intriguing philosophical discussions about the nature of despair, the value of individual choice and deception. Farhadi also seems to say that we reap what we sow, especially when lies the characters spill come back to haunt the storyteller. This fourth outing from the writer/director is easily his best and won him the Best Director prize at the Venice Film Festival.
About Elly screens today at 4pm at the Emirates Palace auditorium and Saturday at 3.45pm at Cinestar 3, Marina Mall.