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‘Summer With Hope’ review: A powerful, slow-burning Iranian family drama

‘Summer With Hope’ review: A powerful, slow-burning Iranian family drama

At a late point in “Summer With Hope”, as the film’s various walls of conflict approach each other menacingly, and the camera seems to have surrendered to a state of permanent penumbra, our protagonist’s tormented mother utters a line that could be synopsis for a million thrillers and melodramas that have gone before. “We came here for a simple reason,” she sighs, “and it got complicated.” From the audience’s point of view, however, nothing in Sadaf Foroughi’s elegant, escalating tragic second feature is as simple as it seems to the characters. The film often leaves us literally in the dark, putting together important events and circumstances in a seemingly straightforward story – about a teenage swimmer and his eldest, invested in the outcome of important national qualifiers – folded and shattered by politics and tacit social codes for it. modern Iran.

As such, “Summer With Hope” makes the viewer work hard for their possible revelations and unbridled emotional countdown: the film shows more than telling, even more hints than showing, and sometimes we trust that we only trust our most careful human instincts. Rather than Foroughi’s shockingly impressive 2017 debut “Ava” – a festival outing that won awards at distribution in Toronto and Stateside with Grasshopper Film – this is a slow-burning dynamite wand, driven by steaming youthful rage against a broken patriarchal system, and sufficiently confident. in its ultimate effect as a kind of domestic thriller to distract us with stylish moods. Following a premiere in Karlovy Vary’s main competition, this Canadian-Iranian co-production was to match “Ava’s” profile and performance, cementing Montreal-based Foroughi as one of the most distinctive voices in new Iranian cinema.

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As in his debut, Foroughi centers his story on a restless teenager who opposes the control of adult parents, and on a society that violates their freedoms with less benevolent intentions. At the very beginning, an aggressively contrasting sequence of soundtrack signals establishes the separate worlds of 17-year-old Omid (Mehdi Ghorbani), who dances in an orange-lit club to Duke Dumont’s electronic banger “Ocean Drive” and his mother Leili (Leili Rashidi, who returns from “Ava”), drives to the full volume of Mozart’s Mass in C minor – proved to be diegetic only when her son, lurking in the car next to her, turns it off immediately. A kind of mutual mutiny erupts between them as they drive from their home in Tehran to an elite residential area on the Caspian Sea, where the talented swimmer Omid will take part in a critical swimming competition, with a place in national championships at stake.

Despite being invited to participate, however, Omid is barred from competing by the strict book coach Kamran (Milad Mirzaee) about a flaw in the application process – an imperceptible obstacle, which points to what seems like a disproportionate degree of despair confrontation and guilt. -changes between Omid, the eternally nervous Leili and her protective brother Saadi (Alireza Kamali). As this mistake is discussed and disputed with growing hostility, viewers may feel that this is more than just a swimming trophy: Foroughi’s restrained, tense structured script gradually suggests the extent to which the future of adults is linked to the boy’s sporting sport. success, with even Leili’s long-awaited divorce from Omid’s estranged father hanging in the balance. That Omid’s name is translated as “Hope” is a rare example of exaggeration in otherwise evasive proceedings.

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These spiky complications slowly manifest themselves as stray patches of gravel and flint in a shoe, and gnaw until they eventually completely impede progress – and that is before an abundance of suspicions and hostilities emerge around Omid’s friendship with junior coach Mani (Benyamin Peyrovani). who agrees to train him on the prowl for a separate swim in open water. In a disorienting feat of reverse storytelling, the taboo undertones of young men’s simple relationships are hinted at mainly by the hysterical reactions of others: Foroughi gives us selective access to their relationship, and maintains an ambiguity that ultimately proves the truth, at least in legal terms. terms, insignificant in the face of ugly societal prejudices. Omid’s athleticism and untamed spirit are mostly shown in adrenaline-pumping scenes where he runs gone – either from violent pursuers in an illegal burglary in the gym, or from his responsibility during a witch hour on the beach, sparkling illuminated by distant, threatening city lights.

The striking visual manners and compositional extremities of Foroughi and DP Amin Jafari’s images support the film’s anxious cultivation of mystery. In one accurate shot after another, the characters’ actions and expressions are partly hidden by shiny evening shadows, strategically anchored objects or even sharply cropped framing. (As in “Ava”, the director is not shy about cutting a talking character off her neck when it suits her guarded perspective.) But this is not just a cinema of tics and teasing: When “Summer With Hope” finally falls its blind spots to reveal a complete picture of familial desperation and common cruelty, the seriousness of it all overwhelms like a flashlight in the eyes.

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