In director-thesp Niki Karimi’s second feature, “A Few Days Later … “, what’s left unsaid matters as much as what’s stated, but the final impression is of an under-realized experience. Following “One Night,” her hypnotically fascinating portrait of a solitary, wandering woman in Tehran, Karimi’s study of a working woman at an emotional turning point is considerably less engaging. This evidently private and personal work will garner respect but little enthusiasm on fest travels, with only select buyers for loyal arthouse markets knocking on the door.
Shahrzad (Karimi) carries a heavy workload as a teacher and a graphic artist at a firm owned by Tabesh (Ehsan Amani), who extols her as one of his more talented creators.
But Shahrzad seems distracted, prone to staring off into space, parking near an apartment building to stare into a window, or driving to stop at a vista overlooking Tehran. She’s able to engage with only one friend, the firm’s photographer Ghazaleh (Niloufar Khoshkholgh), whose preference for happy dance music over Shahrzad’s taste for serious string quartet music is bluntly symbolic.
Shahrzad’s apartment is being remodeled, her rude neighbor continually parks his SUV so that she can’t fit into her parking space, and her phone machine is full of b.f. Mahmood’s (Hessam Nourani) unanswered messages. She slumps on the sofa and stares at the tube into the wee hours.
This pattern of nonactivity continues for a few days, broken only by a lovely interlude in a forest where Shahrzad and Ghazaleh take landscape photos.Helmer Karimi demands the utmost viewer patience to detect hints of some kind of change in Shahrzad’s life. She must make a decision — along with Mahmood — about the care of her sick child, even as her father is hospitalized. Neither is ever fully seen onscreen, either to create distance or to avoid melodrama.
The problem is that Karimi’s character also seems at a distance from herself. With so much key info denied for so long into the narrative, and Shahrzad unwilling to open up to anyone about her concerns, “A Few Days Later…” becomes a case of waiting for a movie to happen; at 71 minutes’ playing time, the pic ends before it has begun to develop.
Opening shot of a solitary car moving down a windy dirt road quotes from Kiarostami, with whom Karimi was a key assistant on such pics as “The Wind Will Carry Us.” And while Karimi’s clear allegiance to Kiarostami is admirable, down to the master director’s well-known dictum that the best films leave room for the viewer to fill in the blanks, she has simply left far too many.
Next to Karimi’s stolidity as a thesp, Khoshkholgh is vibrant, and her Ghazaleh a far more interesting woman, with her own set of problems. Unlike the shrouded visual intensity of “One Night,” “A Few Days Later … ” goes for a rather plain look and a steady pace that stresses routine.