Trying to avoid the stifling heat of Tehran, a group of friends and family head out for an idyllic weekend by the sea. They barbecue and play volleyball. They sing and dance. They even find time for an old fashion game of charades. It’s the perfect vacation…until it all goes suddenly and tragically wrong.
Directed by Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), About Elly is a stunning, multi-layered film that explores the relationships between these seemingly happy vacationers to a depth rarely achieved in a single film, and it does it without pointing the finger of blame at any one or allowing the audience to do the same. It never takes the easy way out and, like all good moves, leaves you wondering what you would have done if you were suddenly in the same situation.
The film’s eerie tension build slowly form the first few frames; even though the people in the cast all seem very happy to be with each other, Farhadi keeps inserting reaction shots and other seemingly random glimpses at the various individuals that pick at your subconscious, leaving you wishing you were in the car with them so you could ask what that certain look was about. Nothing actually happens, mind you, but you are slowly becoming convinced that something will, and soon.
They get to the beach house, unpack and begin their vacation. Elly, the teacher to one of the children in the party, has been invited to the getaway as a potential match for the only bachelor left in the group. It’s not a serious bit of matchmaking, and nothing so tawdry as a hook-up, but an exploratory meeting to see if they like each other. And they seem to, too, as the night goes along. The next day, Elly protests that she has to go back to the city, but, encouraged by the way she and the guy got along, she is encouraged, almost bullied in a nice way, to stay.
She agrees, and it’s a decision that will cost her dearly and set off a chain of events that quickly spirals out of control. As for what exactly happens to Elly and her new friends, it’s best to see the movie and discover it for yourselves. That’s not being coy; Farhadi and his excellent cast work far too diligently to tell the story in a very specific way to spoil it in a review. Suffice it to say that the cast, particularly Taraneh Alidoosti as Elly and the amazing Golshifteh Farahani as the woman who sets the plan for the weekend in motion, are phenomenal at portraying the wide range of emotions that Farhadi puts them through without ever losing their individuality as a fully realized part of the tale. It’s an amazing achievement that will stay with out until you go see it again.