×

Film Review: ‘Wednesday, May 9’

Top Iranian star Niki Karimi and sweet-faced newcomer Sahar Ahmadpour display their acting chops in this trio of connected stories.

With:
Niki Karimi, Amir Aghaei, Shahrokh Forootanian, Vahid Jalilvand, Borzou Arjmand, Afarin Obeisi, Saeed Dakh, Kataneh Afsharinejad, Sahar Ahmadpour, Milad Yazdani.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4944924/

Three O. Henry-esque stories from contempo Tehran are woven together with mixed results in “Wednesday, May 9,” the debut feature of multihyphenate Vahid Jalilvand. Excellent acting from top star Niki Karimi in a decidedly unglamorous part in the first episode, and from sweet-faced newcomer Sahar Ahmadpour in the second, raises their tales of woe above mere melodrama. But the third story, about a would-be philanthropist who hasn’t fully considered the best way to distribute his largesse, comes off as forced and awkward. Some critical support, plus the top prize from the recent Reykjavik Film Festival, should parlay the pic into further festival exposure; sales agent Noori Pictures closed deals with Italy and Benelux after its Venice world premiere.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, May 9, long lines of the poor and afflicted wait outside an office building in an upscale Tehran neighborhood, drawn by an unusual advertisement in the newspaper offering 30 million tomans (about $10,000) to someone in need. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, the local police panic and try to disperse the crowds before driving off with Jalal (Amir Aghaei, the weak link in the acting department), the man who placed the ad. The shots of the crowd, consisting of the disabled, disfigured and truly distressed, register an almost documentary-like authenticity.

Meanwhile, waiting apart from the throng, clad in a billowing black chador that marks her as working-class religious, Leila (Karimi) observes the goings-on with sadness before rushing to her job at a chicken slaughterhouse. Her husband, Ali (played by the helmer), is paralyzed and requires nearly full-time care, but an expensive operation might restore his mobility. In a turn of events that strains credibility, it turns out that Jalal is Leila’s ex-fiance from long ago, who abandoned her when he had a chance to leave their village. He promises her the money, but the jealous Ali is opposed to accepting his help. In filming Leila and Ali’s humble abode, veteran lenser Morteza Poursamadi uses tight compositions and framing within windows and doors to express the characters’ sense of isolation. (His expressive work is the standout of the attractive tech package.)

Orphan Setareh (Ahmadpour) is another supplicant for Jalal’s money. She lives with her strict aunt (Afarin Obeisi), whose son Esmaeel (Borzou Arjmand) nurses an unrequited passion for his pretty cousin that has turned to bitter jealousy. Without telling her relatives, Setareh marries Morteza (Milad Yazdani), a young man from an impoverished family, whose proposal her aunt has refused many times. When the truth comes out, Morteza accidentally breaks Esmaeel’s nose in a fight and winds up in jail, hounded for 30 million tomans of blood money unless the now-pregnant Setareh agrees to a divorce.

While the third episode supplies background on Jalal, finally revealing why he wants to give away this money — and where it came from — it never provides a satisfactory explanation of why he chose to do it in such a complicated and obtuse manner. Where the other two episodes feature lower-class women who are in thrall to their husbands, Jalal’s wife (Kataneh Afsharinejad) doesn’t hesitate to express her displeasure. Her angry monologue places Jalal’s act of charity in another light entirely.

The script, written by Jalilvand with Ali Zarnegar and Hossein Mahkam, functions well as a societal critique, provoking some interesting questions about misguided charity and highlighting the suffering of women in this patriarchal culture. Perhaps the gimmick of the advertisement serves as commentary on the handouts to the poor that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to boost his popularity; nevertheless, it plays as the least credible element of the narrative.

Film Review: 'Wednesday, May 9'

Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Cinema of Our Time), Oct. 2, 2015. (Also in Venice Film Festival — Horizons; Reykjavik Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 102 MIN. (Original title: "Chaharshanbeh, 19 Ordibehesht")

Production: (Iran) A Zarif Mosavar Industrial Group presentation of a Mehr-e Taha Studio production, with the support of House of Art and Culture of Welfare Organization, Kosar Mashiz Charity Institute. (International sales: Noori Pictures, Paris/Tehran.) Produced by Ali Jalilvand, Mohammad Hossein Latifi.

Crew: Directed by Vahid Jalilvand. Screenplay, Ali Zarnegar, Jalilvand, Hossein Mahkam. Camera (color, HD), Morteza Poursamadi; editors, Jalilvand, Sepehr Vakili; music, Karen Homayounfar; production designer/costume designer, Babak Karimi Tari; sound, Seyyed Alireza Alavian.

With: Niki Karimi, Amir Aghaei, Shahrokh Forootanian, Vahid Jalilvand, Borzou Arjmand, Afarin Obeisi, Saeed Dakh, Kataneh Afsharinejad, Sahar Ahmadpour, Milad Yazdani.

More Film

  • For web story

    'The Burnt Orange Heresy,' With Mick Jagger and Donald Sutherland, to Close Venice

    “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive art dealer alongside Elizabeth Debicki (“Widows”), Claes Bang (“The Square”) and Donald Sutherland, has been selected as the Venice Film Festival closer.  The English-language art heist movie marks Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi’s first time back at Venice since 2009, when his debut feature film, the [...]

  • A woman prays at a makeshift

    Kyoto Animation Death Toll Rises to 34; Suspect Still Too Injured to Be Questioned

    Shinji Aoba, the man suspected of setting a fire that killed 34 people at the Kyoto Animation studio, remains hospitalized and too injured to be officially arrested and questioned. Police in Kyoto have obtained an arrest warrant for Aoba but cannot serve it because of his condition. Police sources have raised the death toll from [...]

  • Azania Muendane

    Locations Africa Expo Sends Message in Durban: ‘Africa is Ready’

    DURBAN–The first edition of the Locations Africa Expo and Conference was held this week during the Durban FilmMart, with an eye toward identifying and growing the opportunities to lure incoming productions to the continent. “Locations Africa is trying to service a need on the continent to discuss the physical production…on the ground, highlighting film commissions, [...]

  • The Lion King

    China Box Office: 'Looking Up' Is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of 'Lion King'

    Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences by delivering a surprise No. 1 box-office hit in “Looking Up” over the weekend. It scored $38.6 million in its opening frame, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its perch. “Looking Up” is a family [...]

  • Unathi Malonga

    Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

    DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence. That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content