Happiness is contaminating. Or, at least in Asghar Farhadi's movie, transmitted like some exotic disease. Women, garrulous and chirping like sparrows, make the perfect medium. They are young, educated, modern in the way they dress, confident in marital matters. They make the world spin around with their lies. What's not to love when they come out the most beautiful pairs of lips?
The talented director of A Separation and The Past is trying his hand at secrecy in a story tangled with little bends in the truth. We have three married couples, three small children and two single people. One of the wives, Sepideh plays the matchmaker for Elly, her daughter's nursery teacher. She wants to marry her off to Ahmed, recently divorced and returned from Germany. They go away for the weekend and end up by the seaside. After the first night -full of joyful remarks and innuendos at the potential couple- Elly wants to leave. Sepideh argues against her early departure and left to watch over the kids, Elly disappears.
The story makes a good excuse to study guilt, blame and group crisis. The initial joy and easiness crumble and the friends turn against each other. A mere remark, a joke, an innocent avoiding of the truth lead to an escalating disaster. The story peels off like an onion of many layers under the eyes of the viewer and the skillful director who spins off both narrative and characters. We stand witness to the changing moods, confessions and events. We are taught the potential danger behind a white lie and how it can affect and alter reality and lives. As the tension grows, fissures are found in the people and their version of the truth. Cloudy weather, rain, wind, menacing water all contribute to the tension, building it against the initial state of happiness.
What catches the eye is the idea of miscommunication and how we have a tendency to lose ourselves amid the crowds, may these be as familiar as possible. We fail to connect to others and wrap ourselves in comforting layers of lies or unearthed truths that cover the rawness of the selves. The movie is also depictive in the peculiar struggle of modern ways and Islam traditions: the unsaid truths, the status of women, the appearance versus truth dichotomy. It is a snippet of Iranian life as it unfolds between duplicity and uncertainty. The way we fabricate truth appears to be universal, inlaid inside our very human nature. As usual, the road to hell is paved with the very best intentions.