Brief Thoughts: About Elly

I really enjoy putting my reviews together.  I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer.  This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.  They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there. This Brief Thought is focused on About Elly, the 2009 Iranian from director Asghar Farhadi.

About Elly: 4 out of 5

Sepideh: Now, what does he think about Elly?

It is interesting to go back in time with a director I have only recently found myself so intrigued by in recent years. Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi had made four other films prior to A Separation and The Past. About Elly is one that somehow got lost in the shuffle as far as getting an American release. Regardless, the film has now arrived and continues to shed light on what a talent Farhadi is in capturing human drama.

The film is something of a mystery set among a group of old friends on a holiday retreat. With the return of a close friend, a group of former college pals decide to reunite for a weekend outing by the Caspian Sea. While things begin in good spirits, complete with an attempt to hook up two individuals, trivial lies start accumulating and things really escalate when a sudden disappearance occurs. This sets in motion a series of deceptions and revelations that threaten to shatter everything.

As I mentioned, this film really continues to prove how adept Farhadi is at developing human drama. That it is not quite as good as A Separation or The Past only suggests that Farhadi has improved only time as a filmmaker, given how good About Elly still is. This is a film that is stripped down of nearly everything, aside from some narrative ambition when it comes to utilizing the location for high tension. What is left are a collection of characters and a screenplay that allows for very natural conversations, arguments, and other relatable interactions.

I imagine there can be some debates as to how effective some of the performances are. No matter how strong the story and dialogue, it seems as if About Elly has more of the rough edges than Farhadi's next projects when it comes to the actors properly displaying what one is feeling verses having a nuanced take. With that in mind, there is a lot to enjoy in the way the film takes some subtle jabs at traditional Iranian culture weighed against an evolving senses seen in the current population.

About Elly has plenty going for it. Taking a step back in time and seeing how strong of a filmmaker Farhadi was before being honored with an Academy Award is not too much of a surprise, but it only makes me hope he has more coming that will be just as compelling, let alone some quality work that I still have yet to see in his first three films.

Ahmad: A bitter ending is better than an endless bitterness.


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