One of the joys of the Festival is discovering new movies that give us a refreshing take on things, this is one of those movies. Telling the intersecting tales of three singletons in Tehran as they all grapple with their feelings and the dating (or not dating) scene in a complex city.
In a local beauty clinic, Mina spends her days manning the reception desk and lining up dates with the punters that she takes a shine to. Well, she lines up the dates but never attends, having provided photographs to the recipient which definitely do not represent herself. As she struggles to balance her love for ice cream with her weight issues, she seems doomed to ever be an observer in the dating world but never a participant. Her sister’s repeated attempts to set her up with a local pizza restaurant owner go nowhere and it’s only a chance encounter at a relationship course that takes her out of the phone app dating game and into the real world.
One of Mina’s targets, a former championship bodybuilder and now personal trainer and aspiring actor is struggling with a very different issue in a conservative society. Taciturn in the extreme, Hessam’s dreams of acting in a movie with the world famous (?!) French actor Louise Garrel take a hit when he decides to take on a client’s son as a client. And finally there is, Vahid, one of the saddest characters you’ll meet. A man who takes a certain pride in his ability to make families cry as he sings at their loved one’s funeral. Moping over the breakup of his engagement, it’s obviously the perfect time for him to take up a new career as a wedding singer…
Director Ali Jaberansari clearly has a well developed sense of humour and this comes across wonderfully in his movie. There is great heart in his winding tales of love thwarted and he proves that time and place has little impact on the weird universal rules that are laid out to mess with our hearts. The movie glides through Iranian life without getting bogged down with politics or religion, despite both being apparent as they would always be in such a conservative place. This is much to the movie’s credit. When an illegal wedding is broken up by the police and Hessam is arrested, it is treated as an almost administrative fact of life, as is the scolding he gets from his employer.
Tehran: City of Love is a charming movie that is stuffed full of a whit and an obvious love of its characters. It’s also a great view for cynical Western audiences of a society very different from our own but at the same time with some very familiar challenges for anyone out there in the singles market.