The 180 Degree Rule (2020) **** Bfi London Film Festival 2020

October 7th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Farnoosh Samadi; Cast: Sahar Dolatshaki, Pejman Jamshidi, Azita Hajian, Hassan Pourshirazi; Iran 2020, 83 min.

Best known for her award-winning screenplays, Iran’s Farnoosh Samadi gets behind the camera single-handedly for this tightly-wound domestic drama set in Tehran. Told in a detached, brisk style, it shows how a repressive, dogmatic society leads to the breakdown of a family and the wider implications that ensue.  

Teacher Sara (Dolatshaki) lives with her aloof and controlling husband Hamed (Jamshidi) and their five-year-old daughter Raha. He is a work-obsessed bureaucrat whose obsequious telephone calls to his superiors, contrast sharply with his dismissive attitude to his wife. For weeks, she has asked him to take a few days off for her younger sister’s wedding in the north of the country – but Hamed’s priority is always work, and he’s relieved to be let off the hook when his boss needs him to go on a business trip. Having refused to support Sara, he also forbids her Sara to travel to the wedding with Raha, even though the little girl is looking forward to it, having been chosen as bridesmaid and rehearsed her song to perfection.

But the two will go and the trip will end in tragedy with Sara relying on her family to get her through the aftermath. Samadi packs her storyline with the knock-on affects of the trip showing how difficult it is to conceal things, not only from her difficult husband but also his family – without revealing the entire plot line, suffice to say that Sara eventually ends up involved with the Police.

School life is no easier with Sara having to deal with a pupil’s overdose due to an unwanted pregnancy. Samadi shows how women live in daily fear of their perceived authority figures in a society that is determined to control and undermine them, and even reduces them to pawns in the hands of their husbands. But what makes 180 Degree Rule so impressive is the casual emotional aggression Hamed uses to punish his wife: treating her like a child, but without the love he has for his daughter.

The feature is complimented by its dour interiors – in contrast, the tonal relief of the wedding scene is a little master-piece of imagination, a fairy-world much removed from the dreary reality of everyday life. Avoiding melodrama at all times, Samadi gives this restrained and quietly assured debut a hopeful conclusion with the news that Sara’s sister has married a more progressive husband who at last holds Hamed in contempt. AS



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