The Salesman (2017)

The Salesman © Amazon Studios. All Rights Reserved.
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Released:  Friday, January 27, 2017  
Length:  125 minutes
Studio: Amazon Studios
Genre: Drama/Suspense
Rating: The Salesman is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaSome material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Forced to leave their apartment due to a dangerous construction project in a neighboring building, a young Iranian couple moves to the center of Tehran where they become embroiled in a life-altering situation involving the previous tenant. Directed by Asghar Farhadi, who also helmed the Oscar-winning feature A Separation

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The Salesman Theatrical Review

So much is different in other parts of the world from what we know and are used to in the United States. There are strict rules regarding women having their heads covered, what theater and music can be enjoyed, and how the police deal with crimes. Relationships between husbands and wives are also different.  Yet much of what we feel as human beings is somewhat the same.  This is apparent in the latest film from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation).

The Salesman is the story of Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti; Shahrzad) and Emad (Shahab Hosseini; A Separation) Etesami, a loving, married couple who live and work as actors in Iran.  When their apartment is physically compromised due to construction next door, they find themselves homeless and when another member of their acting troupe offers them the opportunity to live in an apartment he owns, they move in.  However, one of the rooms is locked and full of items from the previous tenant and that is where their trouble begins.

It seems the previous tenant was a woman who was promiscuous and who had a lot of gentleman callers.  One night, Rana leaves the door open for her husband while she goes to take a shower and unfortunately instead of Emad it is one of those callers who shows up instead. Startled and "fondled" Rana hits her head and ends up in the hospital.  While she physically heals both she and Emad suffer the emotional scars left behind by the intruder.  As they go on with their lives and their production of Death of a Salesman, their lives unravel.

Farhadi has a unique ability to make the audience feel uncomfortable and empathetic all at the same time, such as when the intruder is confronted by Emad and breaks down begging for forgiveness and leniency from Emad and Rana.  He also has the ability to anger western audiences with his honest portrayal of why many women in the Middle East don't go to the police when something like this attack occurs.

The cast is excellent all around and Alidoosti and Hosseini do a wonderful job of taking us through the various emotions of assault from fear and anger to sadness and resignation. They also immerse us in the Iranian world while conversely reminding us of Western culture as they perform scenes from Arthur Miller's acclaimed play.  The supporting cast are also very good making this film a quality piece of work to be lauded and praised.

The significance of Death of a Salesman as the performance piece in the movie is certainly intentional and the significance isn't lost on the audience.  The somber tone of the play mimics Rana's and Emad's emotional breakdowns as we witness the disintegration of their marriage.  Ultimately, we begin to pity them just as the audience pities Willy Loman.

Farhadi also folds us into the Iranian world with shots of the city they live in and scenes taking place in the local markets.  He offers us a view of a grittier, grayer country than we may have witnessed before and I'm sure that is intentional as well.

The film, while subtitled, doesn't seem laborious and moves smoothly throughout.  The heartbreak and devastation felt by these characters comes across clearly despite the language barrier, which is a testament to the actors and director.  

Some of the film is hard to watch, especially the older man's confession and Emad's breakdown once he confronts Rana's assailant, but those moments serve their purpose.  There is a reason Farhadi is an award-winning filmmaker and The Salesman is a shining example of his excellent work.

Grade: A


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