A single mother of two is offered a heartbreaking choice in this graceful, understated work from Iranian filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi

Film Review by Sam Kenyon | 28 Feb 2020
  • Son-Mother
Film title: Son-Mother
Director: Mahnaz Mohammadi
Starring: Raha Khodayari, Mahan Nasiri, Reza Behboodi, Shiva Ordooie, Maryam Boubani

The latest film from Iranian activist and filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi is a graceful, understated work that simmers with silent heartbreak. Smartly structured in two concise chapters, Son-Mother interpolates the stories of struggling, single mother-of-two, Leila, and her 12-year-old son, Amir. Their relationship is thrown into chaos following an offer of marriage from local minibus driver Kazem: promising financial security, but loaded with the condition that Amir leaves the family home, give that Kazem has a daughter of his own and traditional orthodoxy prohibits the pair to live together.

Against a backdrop of economic precarity and deep social conservatism, Leila faces an impossible choice. In an early scene, her elderly neighbour, Bibi, implores her to suppress her emotions and embrace the marriage. “It’s a blessing”, she says, “Don’t make the same mistake I did”.

As Bibi exits we see Kazem waiting by his minibus. He looks hopefully at Leila, but she looks past him to a young girl we presume to be his daughter – and then out past the edges of the frame, almost meeting our gaze. The scene cuts to Leila dressing her own, infant daughter, and the succession of brief, wordless moments leaves a lingering awareness of the many silences and absences gathering force.

Like many of her peers, Mohammadi has been widely censured in Iran; even jailed for two years on spurious charges relating to her art and activism. In this context, the mere existence of Son-Mother is amazing, but the fact that it speaks with such poise to such complex subject matter is a revelation.

Son-Mother screens at Glasgow Film Festival, Tue 3 Mar, 8.30pm; Wed 4 Mar, 4pm, Glasgow Film Theatre