By Rich Cline | January 1, 2003

Yet another strikingly beautiful, relentlessly tough Iranian film! And like The Circle, it has women’s issues as its central theme. There are three stories: On her 9th birthday Hava (Akhar) is told she’s now a woman and can no longer play with her young friend (Nebhan). But her mother and grandmother (Sisizadeh and Passand) relent, letting her have one last hour of freedom. Meanwhile, Ahoo (Toloui) is riding in a race with the other women of the town, but her husband (Kahvarinegad) thinks this is disgraceful, follows her on horseback and insists that she give up … or else he’ll divorce her. And finally, the elderly Hoora (Sedighi) arrives at the airport and hires a baggage boy (Iravani) to help her buy all those things she always wanted–TV, washing machine, sofa set, etc–then take everything to the beach.
All three of these tales are stunningly filmed, with attention to detail, honest performances and Meshkini’s terrific directoral eye. Some of the images take the breath away–the little girl staring at the shadow cast by a stick in the sand, watching her time disappear; the bicycle racers pursued along the shoreline by horsemen; young boys having a beach party with all the accoutrements of modern life. And as each of these women takes one last stand, a final fling of independence and defiance, the film’s themes spring to life. It’s not condemning the culture; there’s a clear recognition that these customs protect women … and the implication that they’re no more restrictive than the traditions we have in the West.

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