A nuanced portrait of a religious housewife in distress, “As Simple as That” marks a milestone in current Iranian cinema as a rare realist depiction of a woman from the middle class. Constituting a Persian “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” this quiet, observational drama from helmer Seyyed Reza Mir Karimi (“Under Moonlight”) nabbed film, script and actress gongs at the Fajr fest national competition. Although probably more resonant for domestic audiences, pic reps quality fest fare, and should travel further afield after its June international preem in competition at the Moscow fest.
Put-upon protag Tahareh (Hengameh Ghaziani) has a problem common to all classes of Iranian women, and indeed women worldwide: She’s suffering from a stressful routine so centered on husband, kids and home that she’s completely lost any sense of herself and fallen into depression.
Her self-absorbed hubby is an engineer who’s so busy that he doesn’t bother to tell her he’s changed the number of their joint bank account. Their two materialist-oriented children, a girl, 8, and a boy, six, 6, are hurtfully unappreciative of her efforts to cook, clean and coach them.
Beautifully shot in closeup and medium closeup, pic shows one dreary winter day of Tahareh’s life: preparing meals, washing clothes, shopping, taking her son to English class. Her little down time is constantly interrupted — by neighbors taking advantage of her good nature and possessions, or by a cockroach she has to kill to placate her screaming kids.
Small hints (a packed suitcase, desperate phone calls to the office of a clergyman to “consult the book”) indicate this is a day in which she plans to make a change, but circumstances seem to conspire against her. Her only solace comes from a few stolen moments writing poetry, visiting an old friend she meets by accident and giving advice to the older man she watches from her kitchen window.
The subtle script by Mir Karimi and Shadmehr Rastin and Ghaziani’s brilliantly sensitive performance make achingly clear how close to a breakdown Tahareh is. She seems most alive when recalling events from her youth, a time when life seemed simpler. The ambiguous ending can be interpreted in various ways.Precisely detailed tech package supports understanding of Tahareh’s inner emotions. For the film to be understood in the West, text will be needed to explain the practice of estekhareh, in which religious Iranians who want to know if a wish or a dream will find a favorable outcome ask a clergyman or trusted person to open a page of the Koran randomly and interpret whatever verse is there.