Aturgid mother-daughter psychodrama with some social insight, “Smoke and Mirror” describes the return to Iran of a Westernized young woman who no longer recognizes the country she left. This first feature by Farinaz K. Javan, who studied film at CUNY in Brooklyn, seems less interested in social critique than nostalgic reflection on how you can’t go home again. Noticeably off the radar of Iranian indie filmmaking, it may interest smaller fests.
Arezoo (Setare Eskandari), who has always felt like a foreigner in her years of living abroad, naively decides to return home and open a school. Her luxurious old home has been sold, her siblings scattered, and only her opium-addicted mother (Bita Farahi) is left, cared for by a dishonest servant. Riding around traffic-choked Teheran with its billboards of ayatollahs and war martyrs, Arezoo discovers it’s a different world, and no one is going to let her lead the independent, idealistic life she dreams of. Veteran thesp Farahi is sadly convincing as the bitter, emotionally cold mother, whose own dreams have been shattered long ago.