Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is known for character-driven, morally complex relationship dramas.
In films such as Oscar-winning A Separation, and About Elly and The Past, he masterfully takes ordinary people's issues and turns them into intense, suspenseful stories. With The Salesman Farhadi takes us into the heart of Tehran, its theatre scene and Iranian culture.
As he's done before, Farhadi introduces his characters at a vulnerable point in their lives - in this case, young couple Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are left homeless when their apartment building is damaged by construction work. The sudden cracks in the building foreshadow the stresses to come in their relationship.
Amateur actors by night, Emad and Rana secure a top floor apartment from a theatre colleague. On moving in they find the previous tenant has locked her belongings in a bedroom, and there's no sign of her returning to collect them. One night after moving in, Rana hears the apartment buzzer and, presuming it's Emad, opens the door, and gets in the shower. Next thing, she's in hospital with a head injury after being attacked by an intruder.
As you'd expect, Rana is deeply disturbed by the attack but - aware she let the attacker into the apartment - refuses to get the police involved, leaving Emad to do his own investigative work.
The performances by Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini are superb, and it's what Farhadi doesn't say and show that provides the intrigue. We never meet the "loose" woman who left her belongings, or Rana's attacker; instead, nuanced performances guide us through the complex consequences on the young couple of this of this violent act.
This is a film about vengeance as much as a middle class marriage in crisis, and as Rana and Emad deal with the situation differently; you can see the fabric of their relationship fraying. It's very much a common story, yet Farhardi's intimate portrayal means we become immersed in Rana and Emad's lives, and care about the outcome.
The Salesman isn't as stunning as A Separation, but it's still a class act. No one does domestic drama quite like Asghar Farhadi.
Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Running Time: 125 mins
Rating: M (Adult themes)
Verdict: Another classy domestic drama from an in form Asghar Farhadi