Winning the Audience Award and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, writer-director-producer Maryam Keshavarz delivers a universal and timely story of the Iranian and the Iranian-American experience.
About: Coming from two countries at odds, Iranian American Leila (Layla Mohammadi) strives to find balance and embrace her opposing cultures while boldly challenging the labels society is so quick to project upon her. When her family reunites in New York City for her father’s heart transplant, Leila navigates her relationships at arm’s length to keep her “real” life separate from her family life. However, when her secret is unceremoniously revealed, so are the distinct parallels between her life and that of her mother Shireen (Niousha Noor). Punctuated by a bright color palette, snappy comedic relief, and vibrant dance numbers, The Persian Version delivers an honest portrayal of a woman who remains unapologetically herself, blended seamlessly into a heartfelt story about family, belonging, and the undeniable influence of pop music.
Leila (Layla Mohammadi) is the daughter of Iranian-American immigrants and the only girl of nine children. She has been living on her terms, pushing away from the cultural expectations her family wants her to live. The opening scene in the big city where she lives grasps the viewer’s attention and makes them wonder about the story behind the individual. The writing and acting are so good. It is not predictable and is very touching when it is not flat-out comedic. Not only Mohammadi is engaging, but also Niousha Noor, who plays Shireen, Leila’s mother. They have differences for various reasons, and they portray those emotions so authentically that it feels so universal. So many families have love but no doubt their differences, no matter their heritage or where their ancestors are from. This film is excellent!
Many individuals can feel the pressure of expectations and choose to conform. Leila has many different experiences that we see on full display in the film, and she selects from each one to stay true to herself. The struggle is real, and how she handles each is both dramatic and comedic. Mohammadi is an excellent artist who can capture various emotions and genres well in the same film. Understanding Shireen’s point of view as a parent is effortless, especially when there are expectations as a woman in several roles pressuring her.
When the family gathers in New York for the father’s heart transplant, the family dynamics are viewed, and Leila is not ready to give in. Leila is very close to her grandmother, as she is not as judgmental. At one point, she hints that there is some family history they don’t discuss. As the story slowly comes to light, Leila is even more determined to learn more about her parents, siblings, and what is at the core of her mother’s emotions and actions. There are genuinely loving scenes, but the humor can’t be missed. I can’t stress how much this film left a huge smile on my face by the end.
MPAA Rating: R, Runtime: 107 mins, Now playing in theaters.
Source: Sony Classics