An appealing film thanks to its irresistible teenage heroine, “I, Taraneh, Am Fifteen” delivers the message that there’s a new generation of strong-minded femmes out there who aren’t afraid of bucking social norms. In its quiet way, “Taraneh” touches the hot issues — jail, divorce, teenage love, unwed maternity — and comes up with a convincing, positive answer to all. Directed by veteran Rasul Sadr-Ameli, it was bountifully prized with national awards at the Fajr fest, including best director, script and actress. Pic should be one of the most popular export items this year.
Opening plunges motherless young Taraneh (played with wide-eyed charm by newcomer Taraneh Alidoosti) into visiting hours at a Tehran prison, where her father (Hossein Mahjub) is serving time for an unspecified crime; judging by his mildness and the love he bears his daughter, it can’t be a major offense. After school, Taraneh works in a photo shop. She refuses the attention of blue-eyed Amir Kishmili next door (Milad Sadr-Ameli) until he proposes marriage. But when their families meet to make wedding plans, Amir’s mother (Mahtab Nasirpour) insists on a temporary marriage permit, to be finalized only after they finish their studies. This is the beginning of disaster.
With the temp license, Amir and Taraneh can walk around in public together without police harassment, though they still live apart. Within a few months, they find out they’re incompatible — she’s straitlaced serious, he just wants to have fun. Only after they divorce and Amir leaves for Germany does the girl discover she’s pregnant.
It’s a long setup to reach this turning point, and pic’s major flaw is its excessive length. On the plus side, scripters are careful to make each step of the story plausible, while subtly unveiling the dishonorable motives of characters like Mrs. Kishmili, who ironically heads a women’s organization. Resisting her insinuations and pressure to get an abortion, Taraneh quits school and moves to a lonely apartment on her own.
Believing it’s God’s will that she become a mother, she heroically gets through the pregnancy on her own while waiting tables in a restaurant. She undertakes a court battle to get her baby girl an ID card, for without a certified father, the child will have no civil rights.
In the end, she wins a well-earned moral victory and her father’s understanding, with even a hint of future happiness waiting around the corner. It’s a good, strong ending perfectly in keeping with Alidoosti’s courageous central perf.
As Amir’s mom, Nasirpour makes a villainously ambiguous “feminist.”