A brilliant character driven Iranian film, ‘The Salesman’ is smartly written, well paced powerful drama and one that absolutely deserves a watch if you can get over the subtitles. It won’t be for everyone and at a little under 2 hours, that’s a lot of reading text but the performances of the two lead characters elevate this film to an astonishing level that it really didn’t bother me in the slightest. It absolutely deserves its Oscar for best Foreign Language Film this year.
The story follows Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) as they’re forced to move to a new apartment after their old one becomes unlivable. All seems well until an incident linked to the previous tenant that occupied the house results in Rana seriously injured and shocked. The film shifts focus from Rana to Emad and back again as the ever growing shadow of the incident threatens to break them apart. Emad, dead set on vengeance, goes on a mission to find out who the culprit is while Rana begs him not to.
From start to finish the film is well paced, with some great spikes of tension throughout and some incredibly tense dramatic shots. Even though we never actually see the incident take place, seeing the front door slowly open while the camera zooms conveys a perfect amount of tension and the ensuing devastation that follows is so realistic, mainly due to the incredible acting by the two lead characters. There’s some really good dialogue that helps but the overall acting is simply sublime. We feel their anguish and turmoil and even when there’s no words, the subtle facial expressions are enough to speak volumes for what these characters feel. Simply incredible work.
If I have one nitpick its that some of the supporting cast are pretty average. They deliver their lines but are not at the same level as the two leads. Whilst this doesn’t detract from the film, I did notice it nonetheless but this is a very minor point.
Having said all that, ‘The Salesman’ is a hard hitting character-driven drama and with an incredibly well written script, the film is up there with one of the better films I’ve watched this year. It may well fly under the radar; being a foreign-language film I can’t imagine it being too well advertised but this one is most definitely a hidden gem. Highly recommended.