EIFF 2014: The Paternal House

Film Review by Chris Buckle | 25 Jun 2014
  • EIFF 2014: The Paternal House
Film title: The Paternal House
Director: Kianoosh Ayari
Starring: Mehdi Hashemi, Shahab Hosseini, Mehran Rajabi, Nasser Hashemi

The opening scene of Iranian drama The Paternal House plays like a home invasion thriller, as a weeping young woman flees from room to room, barricading doors and attempting to escape men with murder in mind. But there’s a crucial (and distressing) point of differentiation: the men are her father and brother, resolved to kill their kin as punishment for an unspecified trespass that has damaged the family’s honour.

Following this 1929-set prelude, the film charts the legacy of patriarchal violence across further generations of the same Tehran household, with a series of single-act scenes taking place in ’46, ’66, right up to ’96 – each segment set entirely within the perimeter walls of the claustrophobic homestead. The stagy structure allows director Kianoosh Ayari to compare shifting social attitudes while drawing attention to key continuities, although the heavy-handedness of some scenes limits their emotional and intellectual impact. That said, some of this clumsiness seems attributable less to the film itself but rather to its presentation, with absurdly substandard subtitling proving a major distraction.

The Paternal House has its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

25 Jun, 6.10pm, Filmhouse

28 Jun, 6.40pm, Cineworld