Director Tahmineh Milani’s outspoken feminism has landed her an international festival audience but also a week in jail, after Iranian authorities took issue with her “Two Women” and “The Hidden Half.” Very much in the same spirit, “The Fifth Reaction” is even more provocative in its sympathetic depiction of female solidarity for a young widow whose children are being legally taken away from her by her conservative father-in-law. In this case, however, good intentions do not a good film make. Sketchy characterization and a TV-style action plot combine in an awkward film that feels hastily made. Still, pic’s in-your-face feminism may earn it some fest slots.
While mourning her husband, Fereshteh (Milani’s cult actress Niki Karimi) is informed by her powerful father-in-law Hadji (the commanding Jamshid Hashempour), a trucking boss, that he’s sending her back with her father but keeping her two little boys. With the help of her women friends, Fereshteh starts off across Iran with the kids, pursued by every truck driver in the country. Film is careful to point out that a few men are enlightened, but the gist is pretty depressing from a woman’s p.o.v.