About Elly (2009)

Ahmad: "A bitter ending is better than an endless bitterness."
By Asghar Farhadi
With Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini, and Taraneh Alidoosti 

I was recommended this movie by a friend a few months back, but didn't get around to seeing it until today.

There is much to say about the directing, the imagery, the use of sound, the simplicity of the plot, and the impeccable and sensitive acting. The film narrates a fateful trip to a house by the sea, where a group of friends go for a small vacation. One of the friends, Elly, is a newcomer to the group, known only to one other friend. After a series of incidents, Elly goes missing and a child almost drowns to death. Fingers begin to fly among the friends, each pointing to the other in blame. Lies unfurl, relationships begin to split at the seams.

By the end of the film I was left questioning the motivations of every character, and the palpable sense of disappointment with language and the failure of words to communicate meaning. Who is Elly? Does she die in the end? Were Ahmad's words to her (quoted at the beginning of this review) crucial to her death? What were Sepideh's reasons for lying? Was this film making a feminist stand? What was the role of the children? Why did one of the children have to almost drown? Was Elly symbolically drowning? What did the scene with the kite mean? Elly's look of distaste at the teasing and singing for her alliance (or soon to be alliance) with Ahmad seem to signal towards her dissatisfaction with the traditional roles of marriage, the regretful way she looked at her ring (which later we can gather is from her fiance, having been engaged all this time) all hints at perhaps a suicide.

The men in the film seem, despite them being upper middle class and fairly open minded and not too religious, still very misogynistic. In particular I am noticing a scene where all the women grouped together to cook and Ahmad requests Sepideh to bring the tea and later, the casual way in which the men either beat/verbally assault their wives. At the same time, it seems the women are capable of immense violence--it seems Sepideh's husband is jealous of her connection with Ahmad--perhaps there is more than meets the eye with their relationship?

I liked: The acting was superb. Natural, not high strung or over acting. The clever way the camera focused on little moments that revealed secrets of the moments.

I disliked: I expected more of Sepideh's character. A little more explanation perhaps of her actions, her past, and her relationship with both Ahmad and Elly.

About Elly will not give you easy answers, but if you are looking for a thought provoking film which delves into the complexity of friendship/relationship dynamics and human nature, you should give this a watch.


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