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Film Review | Tokyo 2020 'No Choice'
by Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter 11/4/2020
NO CHOICE, Tokyo Film Festival
It’s a slippery path up the mountain of human rights.
Three good women clash when a
determined lawyer takes on the case of a homeless girl against an idealistic doctor in Reza
Dormishian’s legal thriller.
..the story is an
engrossing, well-made and well-acted human rights drama cum legal procedural set in the world of Tehran’s
Dormishian is one of the most original directors in Iranian cinema, and No
Choice (Majboorim) is another example of his ability to enthrall
with hard-hitting social critique.
Though No Choice doesn’t land the punch in the stomach that made audiences take notice of I’m Not Angry! (social
inequality, capital punishment) and Lantouri (acid attacks on women, capital punishment), the story is an engrossing,
well-made and well-acted human rights drama cum legal procedural set in the world of Tehran’s homeless
This is one female-centered film that happily takes being a woman professional for
granted. Stars Fatemeh Motamed-Arya as a respected gynecologist and Negar Javaherian as a firebrand young lawyer face off in powerful roles, while
Ahmadiyeh(Tooman) plays the girl who is the bone of
contention. And the drama is all about women’s bodies and their right to choose. The street
girl Golbahar (Ahmadiyeh) is a baby-making machine for her
pimp Mojtaba, who sells the infants to his clients. All hell breaks loose when they realize
her tubes have been tied during a miscarriage operation in the hospital, without her consent.
This discovery is made after a repulsive scene in which the girl
is led to a room to spend time with a rotund older man whose wife can’t have a baby. Unlike the
surrogate Gypsy mother in the Iranian film Titi, which is also
bowing at the Tokyo Film Festival, there is no
question of having the sperm and egg implanted — here it’s strictly do-it- yourself. When Golbahar fails to get pregnant (and consider that she had her first
baby when she was eleven), they learn the truth.
Defending the girl, while warding off
her malevolent protector, is tough attorney Sara Nedayi (Javaherian). She comes from a comfortable middle-class background and is surrounded by supportive men
like Dr. Saadat (Parsa
Piroozfar), who urge her to calm down. Naturally, the viewer is on her side as she takes ever more dangerous steps on
behalf of her pro bono client.
Until, that is, she begins to legally attack the OB-GYN who
operated on Golbahar, Dr. Pandar, accusing her of non- consensual
tubal ligation. Here the tables turn. In a few telling strokes, Motamed-Aryapaints the doctor as a calm professional dedicated to her job and her patients — she even pays
for the indigent who otherwise wouldn’t be treated. In fact, she loves her job so much it keeps her away
from her family, who have gone abroad. Her life is summed up in a lonely salad dinner in a restaurant.
The moral compass swings back and forth between the lawyer and the doctor; as in
other Dormishian films, it’s up to the
viewer to decide who’s right. In the end both protags are social activists, but they come at problems from
different angles. And the problems they take on, like poverty and homelessness, are so vast that they
barely make a dent.
Near the end, Sara is ordered to appear before two
prosecutors in a black space, perhaps a police station. She holds her head high and sticks to her guns as
they rattle off all the wrong causes she has championed: civil liberties, raising the marriage age, social
justice, women’s rights. They sound very much like the themes of the director’s films. As closing advice,
they tell her to “go out and make some money," ironically
echoing Golbahar’s pimp.
The film may not
be a bona fide legal thriller but it has the tension of one, as the net around Dr.
Pandar tightens thanks to Sara’s relentless investigation and a cliffhanger
ending approaches. The pace does slow down in parts, though, loosening its grip on the viewer.
The camerawork contributes to the feeling of a classy TV crime drama, making generous use of
sudden zooms into close-up as the characters exchange significant looks. Also very sophisticated and
appealing is DPAieenIrani’s black-and-white-with-color palette, and composer Kayhan Kalhor’s modernist score that runs from
screeching violins to a very melodious traditional song in closing.
"After going six months of waiting from delivering the film "No
Choice" to the Iranian Organization of Cinema and Audiovisual Affairs, my film has been reviewed twice by
the Board of the Film Council the last two weeks, but I have not received a response!"
"I urge every esteemed official and real decision-maker in the Cinema
Organization to be held accountable for the status of the public screening of 'No Choice'."