No Date, No Signature

A single moment in time changes of lives of two Iranian men in Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature. While driving home at night, Dr. Nariman (Amir Agha’ee), a coroner, accidentally sideswipes a family of four riding a motorcycle. He quickly pulls over to attend to the family. Everyone seems fine except for the son, who suffered bruising and a possible concussion.

The father, Mossa (Navid Mohammadzadeh), visibly upset with the accident maintains his composure and accepts Nariman’s assistance both medically and financially. With the exception of the son’s minor injuries, Mossa and his family seem fine. Nariman insists that Mossa and his family visit the nearby health clinic where he works. They decide to go home instead.

“…a chance that Nariman was responsible for the boy’s death.”

The next morning at the health clinic, Dr. Nariman sees Mossa and wife distraught in the waiting room. Unseen by the family and curious, Nariman asks his colleague, Dr. Sayeh Behbahani (Hediyeh Tehrani) why they are there. She explains that their son just died from severe nausea and excessive vomiting.

Nariman is confused because the son seemed fine after the accident. His confusion quickly turns to guilt. Not wanting a confrontation, Nariman hides from the family and watches as the family is delivered the bad news.

Upon further examination, the autopsy of the boy revealed that he died of food poisoning, specifically an advanced case of botulism. Days before, Mossa had bought spoiled chicken from a local slaughterhouse and fed it to his family. Nariman, on the other hand, wonders if the boy could have died from the accident.

The film plays out following the two men as they live with the consequences of the decisions they’ve made. For the father Mossa, he bought bad chicken from a sketchy salesman and his son is dead as a result. He further compounds his problems by beating the salesman to death.

“His portrayal of grief and guilt is heartfelt and his emotional performance is perfect.”

Dr. Nariman, on the other hand, is guilt-ridden because he didn’t insist more fervently for the family to seek medical help after the accident. He also chose to remain silent during the family’s visit. He knew about the accident, while the coroner on duty may have ended his investigation early once the food poisoning was discovered. He could have directed the coroner to examine the boy’s head and spine. There was a chance that Nariman was responsible for the boy’s death.

Writer/director Vahid Jalilvand tells a tale about morality and integrity. Nariman’s conscience and faith compel him to set the record straight about the boy’s death, and take responsibility for his actions; even if he is the only person who believes he could have been responsible. Amir Agha’ee shines as the film’s lead. His portrayal of grief and guilt is heartfelt and his emotional performance is perfect.

The ending may leave you perplexed and befuddled. Why would Nariman do what he did at the end? It seemed petty, but maybe that was the point of the film.

No Date, No Signature (2017) Directed by Vahid Jalilvand. Written by Vahid Jalilvand and Ehsan Alikhani. Starring Navid Mohammadzadeh, Amir Agha’ee, Hediyeh Tehrani, Zakiyeh Behbahani, Sa’eed Dakh. No Date, No Signature played as part of the New Voices New Visions series at the 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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