Asghar Farhadi’s previous features have established him so definitively as one of world cinema’s greatest dramatists that it’s slightly jarring when one of his stories seems only really good, rather than transcendent. It’s the tale of two married actors, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), whose relationship is strained first by being forced to move out of their apartment, then by an incident at their new apartment where Rana is apparently accosted by an intruder. The action is framed by their production of Death of a Salesman, and there are certainly levels on which that provides for some subtext about a man trying to maintain his dignity. But the meat of Farhadi’s familiar brand of morality play rests on cultural ideas of shame and victim-blaming which sadly seem just as fitting in America, building to a confrontation that’s more about vengeance than justice. It may not be as devastating a portrait of selfishness and moral failure as masterpieces like About Elly and A Separation, but it’s still a potent story of how much a man might be willing to destroy simply to preserve his sense that he’s still a man.
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