The angel of death befriends a lonely Tehrani youth in the bizarre but occasionally affecting meller “Music Box,” from helmer Farzad Motamen. Genre-juggling script blends metaphysical fantasy about the afterlife, Sturm und Drang medical drama and pedagogical kid’s pic to overstate the moral that death comes to all, so live bravely and don’t fear it. Presence of beloved actress Niki Karimi in a bit part might draw viewers domestically, but pic is unlikely to travel, despite sharing the interfaith prize at Fajr fest.
Serious 12-year-old Ali (Arsalan Ghasemi, suitably grave) lost his mother (Karimi) when he was two, and is being raised by his surgeon father (Shahrokh Forutanian) and sickly grandfather (Dariush Asadzadeh). While helping out in the hospital pharmacy, Ali observes “Obedient Agent No. 2” Maleki (otherworldly Rambod Javan) “persuading” people to begin the second stage of their lives. Wishing above all to see his mother again, Ali begs Maleki’s assistance. Scenes of the mother-son reunion constitute pic’s most emotionally honest moments; Karimi and Ghasemi aside, the perfs lack nuance. Production design leans toward an artificially Western look in costume and decor. Other tech credits are serviceable.