out of Five
Running time: 118
Incredibly gripping and brilliantly directed, About Elly is a truly memorable and emotionally engaging Iranian drama with an outstanding lead performance by Golshifteh Farahani.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Asghar Farhadi, who also penned the screenplay, About Elly tells the story of a group of old friends who take a short vacation with their children to coastal Iran. At the heart of the group is Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani), who has ulterior motives for the trip, inviting her daughter’s nursery school teacher, the timid, gentle and blissfully unaware Elly (Taranah Alidousti) along with the intention of fixing her up with her recently divorced friend, Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini), who’s returned to Iran from Germany for a flying visit. But when Elly mysteriously disappears after a freak incident occurs on the second day of the holiday, the jovial trip quickly turns dark as the group of friends try and solve the mystery of the disappearance of a girl they hardly know.
Director Asghar Farhadi enjoyed international and stellar success with his 2011 Oscar-winning film, A Separation, and as a result this powerful and deeply dramatic Iranian drama, which was actually produced in 2009, finally receives its much-deserved UK release. Intensely gripping right from the start, About Elly is an emotionally engaging and well-paced study of passionate and lingering human emotions including pain, grief, fear, guilt, confusion and desperation. As the mood unexpectedly and suddenly turns dark, Farhadi keeps a strong sense of pace and confidence throughout, creating dramatic suspense as the group of friends grow increasingly haunted by the event and slowly learn of Elly’s unexpected and unravelling secrets.
Golshifteh Farahani delivers an outstanding and truly memorable performance, effortlessly portraying Sepideh’s optimistic happiness and then later her deep shame and disdain over the disappearance of Elly, who (as she is constantly reminded by her peers) shouldn’t have even been on the trip in the first place. Hosseini as the self-assured yet horrified Ahmad is also notable, providing the film with a strong emotional backbone, which is welcome when the rest of the cast grow hopeless and hysterical. Finally, the cold coastal location of About Elly is fantastic and faultless, with every harsh crash of the sea reminding the group (and the audience) of the cruel unfolding events and each strong breeze sending shivers down the spine.
Emotionally engaging, jam-packed with stellar performances and intensely gripping from the start, About Elly is a must see, highlighting Asghar Farhadi’s raw directorial talent.
About Elly (Darbareye Elly) (12A)