Widow Finds a Husband And a Son Takes It Hard - "Father" Review

By Lawrence Van Gelder The New York Times

Forming new families after death or divorce is never easy, even with the best of intentions, and the problem knows no geographic boundaries. A straightforward, well-acted and perceptive Iranian film called "The Father" addresses this problem with skill and insight against an exotic background.

The director, Majid Majidi, who was also a co-writer of the film, builds on the seething rage of a 14-year-old named Mehrollah (Hassan Sedighi), who returns to his remote village from the seaside city where he has been working, only to discover that his widowed mother has remarried and moved in with her husband.

Mehrollah, who has seen himself as the man of the family, supporting his mother and sisters, cannot accept the situation, even when told that his new father (Mohammad Kasebi) is, by all accounts, a very decent fellow. And as a flashback shows, this portly, middle-aged, divorced man from a childless marriage was delighted at the prospect of inheriting a family through remarriage.

Complicating Mehrollah's refusal to accept his new father is the fact that this man is a police officer. Despite the father's patience, Mehrollah's anger drives him to contemplate murder, to steal the officer's pistol and to run off with a friend to the seaside city, where Mehrollah plans to rob his employer.

By this time the enraged father is in hot pursuit. And on the way home, after he captures his wayward son, circumstances arise that define the future of their relationship. The desolation of the film's village and desert landscapes serves only to underscore powerfully the importance of the psychological nourishment of peaceful, happy family relationships.

Originally Published March 29, 1997

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