Greetings again from the darkness. It’s 1979 in Tehran, and the Shah of Iran has recently been overthrown in favor of Ayatollah Khomeini and the shift to fundamentalist Islam. Director Wayne Blair informs us that the Hanna Weg script from Dalia Sofer’s bestselling novel is “based on true events”. As soon as we realize the story is about a wealthy Jewish family, we are prepared for the sure to be unpleasantness.
Adrien Brody plays Isaac, a self-made man whose jewelry business has profited through his dealings with the previous regime. His wife Farnez is played by Salma Hayek, and their beautiful home is the setting for the going-away party for their son who is headed to the United States to continue his education, leaving behind his parents and younger sister.
Ignoring his own warnings that things are getting bad, Isaac is soon arrested by the Revolutionary Guard. As Farnez tries to see him, while also keeping things together at home, Isaac is being interrogated and later tortured as he is held captive.
As in many revolutions, it comes down to rich versus poor, and those who had power versus those who now wield the big stick. Isaac and Farnez are presented as good people who have helped others … including their housekeeper played by the always interesting Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog). Her loyalties begin to waver even as her son joins forces with the Guards. Why should she clean toilets while Farnez lives the high life? The scenes with Ms. Hayek and Ms. Aghdashloo are the film’s best, but even those aren’t strong enough given the material.
The film tries to maintain a neutral stance on religion and politics, though it’s clear where the sympathies fall. The ending dedication to “all victims of persecution” gives some idea of the lack of focus here. The over-acting from Adrian Brody does distract some from the manner in which the story ends. The lesson seems to be that one is never free when focused on material things, and yet revolutions always seem to be about the power that comes with money … rather than the issues initially proclaimed. In book form, this is a terrific and personal story about the impact of the revolution. Unfortunately, on the screen, it comes across as all too familiar and lacking in danger and suspense … none of which lessens the true hardships faced by this family.
watch the trailer: