You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Three and a Half

Naghi Nemati's "Three and a Half" starts off with a bang -- or rather, three bangs and a distraught woman with a gun fleeing an apartment.

With: Samaneh Vafaiezadeh, Shooka Karimi, Negar Hassanzadeh, Mehdi Poormoosa.

Naghi Nemati’s “Three and a Half” starts off with a bang — or rather, three bangs and a distraught woman with a gun fleeing an apartment. It grabs the attention, which the pic continues to do despite moments when its narration and editing feel unintentionally confusing. That the helmer (“Those Three”) keeps interest high is a credit to his intriguing characters and the three terrific actresses playing forcefully independent-minded prisoners on leave, waiting to be smuggled out of the country. Pic’s underground yet professional feel and inherently critical take on Iran probably preclude home play, yet fests have been welcoming.

The initial blast occurs in a flash-forward which the remainder of the film works toward. The shooter is Hanieh (Samaneh Vafaiezadeh), the oldest and most mature of three friends in touch with smugglers near the Azerbaijan border. The other two, Banafsheh (Shooka Karimi) and Homa (Negar Hassanzadeh), are strong-willed and abrasive; Homa’s swagger wouldn’t be out of place on the streets of New York. The three are on a short furlough from prison, determined not to go back.

Popular on Variety

Things don’t go as planned. Hanieh secretly cancels their appointment with the human traffickers, though this part remains unclear and they still have a meeting with Nader (Mehdi Poormoosa) near the frontier. The crossing is postponed when some of the smugglers get caught, and further complications arise when Hanieh reluctantly reveals she’s pregnant.

Production notes say she learns she’s HIV-positive too, though this detail isn’t apparent in the film. This narrative confusion unfortunately infects quite a bit of the plot, and there are times when viewers may wonder if there are temporal shifts (apart from the first scene, there are not). Hanieh is apparently a doctor and the other two are med students, though this may be a smokescreen for their jailbird status; in any event, the reason for their imprisonment is never revealed.

Even without the initial shooting, Nemati conveys an understated sense of impending disaster that does much to keep viewer attention taut. Pic unquestionably belongs to the new school of Iranian cinema, one that eschews metaphors or simple stories and instead plunges into the nitty-gritty of a society dangerously at odds with itself. Duplicity, aggression and ruthless selfishness are the hallmarks of this world, which picks up on the most nihilistic elements of classic noir and refracts them through the particularly unyielding turmoil of the Iranian state. “Three and a Half” contains all of this, and even if the plot isn’t always clear, the critique is unmistakable.

The three leads, all unknown to Western auds, are equally strong, from Vafaiezadeh’s preoccupied distress to Karimi and Hassanzadeh’s hard-edged cockiness. If the authorities let them, this trio should go far in the thesping world. Handheld lensing is in keeping with the pic’s indie nature.

Three and a Half


Production: An Iranian Independents production. (International sales: Iranian Independents, Tehran.) Produced by Mohammad-Reza Sharafodin, Seyed Amir Seyedzadeh. Directed, written by Naghi Nemati.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Roozbeh Rayga; editors, Mahmoud Ghafari, Nemati; production designer, Nemati; sound, Hassan Shabankareh, Pooya Payvar. Reviewed at Turin Film Festival (competing), Nov. 27, 2011. (Also in Busan Film Festival -- A Window on Asian Cinema; Warsaw Film Festival -- competing; AFI Film Festival -- Breakthrough. Running time: 79 MIN.

With: With: Samaneh Vafaiezadeh, Shooka Karimi, Negar Hassanzadeh, Mehdi Poormoosa.

More Film

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]


    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Ron Leibman, Jessica Walter'Mary Stuart' Play

    Ron Leibman, Tony-Winning Actor Known for 'Angels in America' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82

    Ron Leibman, an Emmy-winning actor who garnered a Tony for his work in Broadway’s “Angels in America” and played the father of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on “Friends,” died on Friday. He was 82. Robert Attermann, CEO of Abrams Artists Agency, confirmed the news to Variety. No further details were immediately available. Leibman, a native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content