Review: ‘You Are Free’

After straying into preciousness with "Willow and Wind" last year, writer-helmer Mohammad Ali Talebi is back on terra firmer in "You Are Free." Drama is another portrait of little lost souls shouldering adult-sized burdens, but this peek inside Iran's juvenile system balances social commentary against seriocomic storytelling to poignant effect.

After straying into preciousness with the over-emblematic lyrical Iranian kidpic “Willow and Wind” last year, writer-helmer Mohammad Ali Talebi is back on terra firmer in “You Are Free.” Ironically titled drama is another portrait of little lost souls shouldering adult-sized burdens, but this peek inside Iran’s juvenile system — while hardly as tough-minded as “The 400 Blows,” “Los Olivadados” and many other treads on similar terrain — balances social commentary against seriocomic storytelling to poignant effect.

Starting out with scenes at a Tehran reform school (cast includes several real-life enrollees), pic finds the sub-adult populace delighted by news that the state has issued a pardon to those boys who’ve been publicly forgiven by their victims of petty theft or other minor crimes. For two frustrated lads their “freedom” is useless when they have nowhere to go.

Funny-faced Moshen goes unclaimed by his father, whose second wife wants nothing to do with this “problem” child. As a boy with a “record,” Soshen is basically forced back into homelessness — no orphanage will take him, nor can the overcrowded reformatory.

Each taken finding temporary refuge in the homes of rather credence-stretching selfless grownups (a chief school administrator and female social worker, respectively), the two boys regale their hosts with comical tales of their greatest street-life adventures. These are depicted in flashback while the search for suitable homes goes on over the course of nearly 48 hours.

Solutions at close are pat, but charmingly natural perfs among the juve players, restrained adult ones and a sure directorial hand keep “You Are Free” on affecting solid ground even when it flirts with whimsy. Production package is modest but smartly handled.

You Are Free

Iran

Production

A Farabi Cinema Foundation production. Produced, directed, written by Mohammad Ali Talebi.

Crew

Camera (color), Mohammad Davoudi; editor, Hassan Hassandoust; production designer, Seyyed Mohsen Ahangarani; sound, Yadollah Najafi. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (World Cinema), Aug. 31, 2001. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Ehsan Ghasemi, Siavash Lashkari, Abdolreza Akbari, Parivash Nazariye.
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