The movie The Persian Version has much to commend it. Writer/director Maryam Keshavarz has created a storyline based mainly on her own life as the youngest child and the only girl in a sizeable Iranian-American family.
Early on, Leila found that she didn’t fit in. She was too Iranian when she was in the United States and too American when in Iran. She forged her own path, conflicting with her mother, Shireen. Leila blames her mother for her breakup with Elena.
She has a peculiar relationship with the actor Maxmillian, who appears in the play Hedwig and the Angry Inch; she and her eight brothers have fun at Max’s expense. Her constant refuge is her grandmother Mamanjoon, who catalyzes a significant story arc.
As Leila’s father/Shireen’s husband Ali Reza becomes very ill, with medical bills piling up, Shireen becomes focused on remaking herself to take care of the family financially. The film has a suitable ending.
The Persian Version has a lot to commend it. The family dynamics, with Shireen disappointed that her daughter is a basketball player and one of her sons a cheerleader, is believable. It takes on the redlining of immigrant families and businesses. The perceived role of women, past and present, is important throughout.
Critic Kate Walsh writes: “Keshavarz spins a lot of plates in ‘The Persian Version,’ and we can see the effort, but she keeps them all in the air.” Whether she pulls this off is the real issue. The Rotten Tomatoes critics, 18% of whom think she didn’t quite it off, are like Jeff Mitchell, who wrote, “Too many shifts in times, tones, and ideas crowd the earnest intentions.”
My wife is in the Walsh camp, whereas I see Mitchell’s point. That said, I think it’s an important film, and despite its flaws, it is very much worthwhile. I loved the use of dance. We saw the movie on Saturday, November 4, as usual, at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.