Movie Review: 'About Elly' NPR film critic Bob Mondello reviews a film from Iran, about Iran — which hasn't been shown in Iran. It's called About Elly, and it's by director Asghar Farhadi, who won an Oscar for A Separation.
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Ties That Bind Meet Lies That Blind In 'About Elly'

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Ties That Bind Meet Lies That Blind In 'About Elly'

Review

Movie Reviews

Ties That Bind Meet Lies That Blind In 'About Elly'

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Most Americans don't have a clear picture of what everyday life is like in Iran. The nation has been isolated from the West for more than three decades. Still, windows open occasionally. A few years ago, there was the Oscar-winning best foreign-language film, "A Separation." Now an earlier film by the same director is being released. Critic Bob Mondello says "About Elly" is a thriller perched between modern thinking and Islamic tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ABOUT ELLY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, screaming).

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: This is the sound of pure joy - seven adults and three kids heading out on a weekend vacation. They're coming through a tunnel somewhere between Tehran and the nearby Caspian Sea and everyone is flushed with excitement, including Elly, the one stranger among them. She's a young teacher who's been invited along by a woman who barely knows her and who is not too subtly matchmaking for a recently divorced buddy. It's not clear that she's actually told either Elly or the divorced buddy this, but Elly is friendly. And the rest of the group's known each other since college, so there are smiles all around as the group muddles through misunderstandings about a beachfront cabin - there's no phone, no Internet, no beds - and settle in for games of charades.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ABOUT ELLY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, foreign language spoken).

MONDELLO: Through all this comradery, you get the sense that something is being left unsaid. But there's such good feeling amongst these folks that it carries everyone along until the middle of the next day, when something happens - I shouldn't say what exactly - and all their various ties that bind come into conflict with what amount to lies that blind - little fibs, really, nothing that seems crucial in the telling. But as the little white lies pile up and people realize how many social taboos have been flouted during their weekend getaway, relationships are threatened, then reputations. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi first came to international attention with his wrenching Oscar-winner "A Separation," which dealt with the marital and social pressures that weigh on contemporary middle-class Iranians. Those also play a part in "About Elly," which was actually made two years earlier. It's a more straightforward, less complicated movie - a younger man's film in some ways. But it's no less nuanced about how its characters reconcile the competing demands of their own modern expectations of life and their society's less than flexible Islamic traditions. A little deception here and there, the characters quite reasonably think, who could it hurt really? Only everyone, says Farhadi in "About Elly," only everyone.

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