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With a combination of dance, love, and politics, this film creates an odd mixture of the three which works perfectly.
Review (with Spoilers)
Though not a fan of Tom Cullen on Downton Abbey, I must admit I was curious about what happened to Freida Pinto after Slumdog Millionaire. For while I vaguely remember what happened in the movie, since I wasn’t a huge fan of it, I do remember her performance, paired with the actress who played her younger self, was quite good. Now, whether this also is a forgettable film, or one which leaves you with something, look below.
Characters & Story
Alfshin (Reece Ritchie) has loved to dance since he was a child, he would do it at school until he was punished; did it at this place called Saba, until it was shut down; and then sought to pursue his passion once more in college. However, even with all the years gone by the oppressive nature of the Iranian government kept him from expressing himself. However, weeks, if not months, before the 2009 Iranian elections, he found himself meeting Ardavan (Tom Cullen) who knew of the Iranian underground scene. Thus leading Alfshin to find a place to dance once more, but not as he wished. So, once again thanks to Ardavan, and associates, Alfshin is given a new place to express himself. Enter Elaheh (Freida Pinto) who is a talented dancer, taught by her mother who formerly was a professional before the revolution, and she not only teachers Alfshin and his friends how to dance, but reinforced in Alfshin that dancing can be more than entertainment.
Perhaps the top thing which enchanted me about the film was the dancing. For while I’m no dance aficionado, the actors performed in such a way where even though you aren’t told if there is a story behind their dancing, you can quickly imagine one in your head. Such as Elaheh’s audition to join Alfshin’s troupe. On top of that, I love a good film which has romance and politics without featuring government officials. Think Blue is The Warmest Colour but with politics being the adversary more so than being comfortable with one’s self. For every character loves the forbidden art of dance, and do it both in secret, and one time in the desert, to share the expression. However, with Iran making dancing in public illegal, you see an insurmountable force which threatens the lives of every character you fall for.
Leading to the topic of characters and story. For me, while I did have a hard time grasping who was who, for the names aren’t the usual generic western English names I’m used to, I found it easy to know by face what happened to Alfshin, one of his friends, what was their story, and I must admit while not heavily invested in everyone, I never felt like they should have been cut from the feature. With that said, the main storyline which really held onto me was the one between Alfshin and Elaheh, for Pinto was just so amazing. From her proper introduction with that audition, learning about her character’s mother, and her sort of turning the tables on Alfshin and making him seem like the dull love interest, I must admit I feel as if this only being the 2nd film of hers I have seen is a crime against myself.
Not to make it seem Ritchie was average in comparison to Pinto, but while his dancing was on point, and how he expressed himself while dancing, when movement wasn’t part of how he expressed his characters thoughts and feelings, he paled in comparison to Pinto. An issue which most of the cast has. For while Ardavan was a charismatic sort of leader, there was something sort of generic about him when he wasn’t dancing. Then, when it comes to the rest of the supporting cast, while they all have their place, I find myself already forgetting them as I write this. If just because, for me, while this film is a biopic of sorts, I feel the politics of Iran and everything outside the dancing just didn’t have that certain oomph to really hit you hard and leave a mark.
Overall: Worth Seeing
While I feel the parts outside of the dancing, and Pinto’s character as a whole, weren’t strong, the film I think compensates for its weaknesses well. For despite most of the supporting cast being sort of forgettable, the relationship, both professional and romantic, between Alfshin and Elaheh more than makes up for it. Add in a healthy dose of you getting a feel for the issues within Iran during 2009, and you are left with a film which presents you beauty and leaves you with a bit of a curiosity. Mostly due to the film not diving too deeply into the history of Iran, making you want to understand more about the revolution which seems to be the catalyst for the issues the characters face.