Set in Tehran but filmed mainly in Beirut, Maryam Keshavarz's earnest, well- intentioned first feature on women's oppression in Iran has trouble resisting its own heavy hand. In-love high-schoolers Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri), a daughter of privilege, and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy), living with her uncle and grandmother after the death of her regime-challenging intellectual parents, dream of escaping to Dubai, which, in their frequently cut-to fantasies, is a utopia of high-femme boîtes and chic hotel suites for Showtime-style Sapphistry. The teenagers—who seek clandestine centers of decadent pleasure where headscarves are discarded and immodest sequined party dresses are revealed—soon become the target of Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), Atafeh's older brother, now a devout Muslim (and informer for the Morality Police) after years of drug addiction. Occasionally, Keshavarz shows that she has the talent to make her points subtly—during a seaside outing that Atafeh takes with her family and Shireen, the camera lingers just long enough on a woman in a black jilbab who is serving tea and snacks to three men clad only in swim briefs. More often, though, the writer/director re-emphasizes the obvious, especially when Mehran installs spy-cams in every room of his parents' well-appointed house, observing the crimes against the theocratic state from his MacBook Pro.
Kazemy (left) and Boosheri: Up against the Muslim patriarchy.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Sept. 16. Rated R. 106 minutes.