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The Neighbor

Quickcard Review - 46th Chicago International Film Festival CLICK HERE for complete coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF 2010)

The Neighbor

Directed by: Naghmeh Shirkhan Cast: Azita Sahebjam, Tara Nazemi, Parisa Wahedi Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD

PLOT: The story follows the lives of two different women who immigrate from Iran to Canada. One struggles with young motherhood while the other is confronted by the expectations of marriage and motherhood and both search for what it means to be a woman.

WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Persepolis may see something worthwhile in this film. For fans of understated character studies The Neighbor will definitely delight in Shirkhan's storytelling.


The Neighbor is a difficult film to describe for so many reasons. First and foremost is that it's unlike most cinematic efforts. There's no clear beginning, middle, and end, much like most people's lives. certainly there's a beginning (birth) and an end (death), but all of that gray that happens in between the two, that's what The Neighbor is all about. At times its pacing may seem glacial, but Shirkhan's directorial debut is a noble and sincere effort. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of it is the beauty in the ordinary. Each scene feels self contained, each action has an indescribable fluidity to it, and only when pieced together do they create something elaborately beautiful about the underwhelming trials and tribulations of day to day life. Even the simple act of a mother pouring hot water over noodles for her daughter, which may sound so unnecessary or trivial, is given such weight through Shirkhan's depiction. Shirkhan's personal background as an immigrant seeps into every frame, creating a personal and deeply felt story of the lives of these two women. It is through her own experiences that she is able to create this world and this heartfelt depiction of identity. There is a strong sense of self in this piece that seems to be lacking in many other films. Shrikhan's conviction and dedication to telling this story is both palpable and unquestionably sincere. It's difficult to say what aspects of herself are placed into these characters, but the devotion to this question of "what does it mean to be a woman?" sustains the film. Each of them has their finer moments, but also their weaknesses. More importantly, each is defined in her own terms. The male influence in the movie is minimal, but not entirely lacking. In fact, most shots of the men are isolated body parts (such as a hand here or the back of a head there) while the women are seen in full throughout most of The Neighbor. It's difficult to say whether or not this was intentional, but regardless, it is effective in demonstrating the woman as a capable and fully realized figure. As a result, the Neighbor works beautifully on two levels. While, at times, it struggles with its sense of pacing, it never fails to engage the audience with its characters. Even in what it chooses to show and what it keeps from the viewer is executed with such precision and focus. Going into this film, it's easy to write off the Neighboras a feminist adaptation of Mira Nair's The Namesake, but at no point does it sacrifice its sense of self, which is unquestionably its most winning attribute.


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