The Unwanted Woman

on August 28, 2005 by Kim Williamson
Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milani ("Two Women"), whose previous feminist work has run her afoul of local authorities (she reportedly once faced a death sentence), in "Unwanted Woman" again examines current male-female relations in her native land. The focus of her story is Sima (Merila Zareie), a prim yet sympathetic schoolteacher in her mid-30s. Her streetwise husband, Ahmad (Amin Hayaie), is always on the make -- both monetarily and sexually. His latest scheme involves the transport of a young widow, Saba (Elssa Firouz Azar), from big-city Tehran back to her village of birth. Believing that Ahmad will as always run afoul of the law, and that he is having an affair with the widow, Sima insists on accompanying the duo on their travels. Along the route, Sima learns the truth about them, her marriage, and herself.

Although the controlled workings of Iranian society are so different from American openness that "Unwanted Woman" occasionally plays a bit like an Arabian "THX 1138," the film benefits from authentic performances from all the actors and from the writer-director's lack of stridency; Milani creates characters, not caricatures, even to the point of, on occasion, appearing to make thematic points only to deconstruct them. There are certain plot occurrences that don't ring true--a key one being that Sima, mother to a young girl, leaves her child behind and puts herself at risk of death to help a stranger (Parssa Pirouzfar) who has just killed his wife, believing she was unfaithful--but overall the narrative and the emotions it carries serve only to further involve moviegoers in the affecting and intelligent drama. Starring Meryla Zareei. Directed and written by Tahmineh Milani. Produced by Mohammad Nikbin. An Iranian Film Society release. Drama. Farsi-language; English subtitles. Unrated. Running time: 103 min

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