Son-Mother is a rare Iranian fare

The title says it all. And yet, there is so much room for surprise and shock in this double-layered film

Son-Mother is a rare Iranian fare

Subhash K Jha


Directed by Mahnaz Mohammadi

Rating: ****

It is not easy to make a film in Iran, especially if you are an anti-establishment director known to oppose the status quo with all your might. In the past, director Mahnaz Mohammadi’s films have all been non-fictional, about the fundamental rights of women.

Son-Mother is her first feature film. And what a stunning debut it is! The title says it all. And yet, there is so much room for surprise and shock in this double-layered film where we see an Iranian woman, a widow named Leila (Raha Khodayari, with those haunted eyes) eking out a living for her two children.

The factory where she toils is inherently hostile to women. Leila is constantly targeted for being a single mother and attractive. A van driver Kazim (Reza Behbudi) offers to marry Leila on one condition: that she abandon her son, at least for some time.

This is where Son-Mother changes tracks to become a tragic disturbing mirror of a regressive recession-hit society that has no respect or compassion for single mothers. Luckily Leila doesn’t get sexually assaulted. But she is deliberately singled out for taunts and innuendos. Not having money to raise her two children clinches it for Leila: she must make her Sophie’s Choice. She chooses her infant daughter’s future over her 12-year-old son Aamir (Mahan Nasiri).

This where the second overture of this stunning melodrama begins. What happens to Aamir next as he is abandoned by his mother and left to fend for himself in a shelter for the hearing /speaking impaired by pretending to be deaf and mute,  is a story  that will take you through the most heartbreaking illustration of societal failure to look after the young.

The young actor Mahan Nasiri’s cold penetrating gaze will haunt you for the rest of your life. What has the boy done to deserve this?

While making a powerful social statement, Son-Mother is also a deeply felt study of homelessness and loneliness. Mahan Nasiri is a treasure at 12. Raha Khodayari is every economically distressed mother, and yet her own person. Ashkan Ashkani's camera captures her trotting purposefully with her burqa billowing in the wind.

It is as if Leila is defying Nature.

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