DRAMA; 1hr 57min (English and Persian with subtitles)

STARRING: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Osamah Sami, Selina Zahednia

Exit strategy: from left, Zahednia and Ebrahimi

For women and children seeking shelter from domestic abuse, salvation will never be cut and dried. Shayda (Amir-Ebrahimi) and her six-year-old daughter, Mona (Zahdenia), are two of them in writer-director Noora Niasari’s poignant, personal feature-film debut. Laying low, they hide out behind the drawn blinds and closed doors of an anonymous Australian home at the 1995 start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Nowruz is defined as “a time of rebirth,” which would be a neat analogy if escaping an abusive marriage were ever that easy.


Shayda’s bolshie husband, Hossein (Sami), a medical student on a scholarship with plans to return to Tehran when he graduates, is resistant to everything she is doing, with an anger that will tip into the unhinged.The law being the notorious ass it is, he has also been granted unsupervised access to an emotionally fractured Mona, who is inescapably pulled between her warring parents, while back home in Tehran, Shayda’s mother is on the phone, unhelpfully urging her cornered daughter to come to her senses.


When life is in the balance, those at its mercy can never afford to let down their guard. In a drift of observational scenes that echo Shayda’s disconnected state, Niasari maps the pulse points of a survival whose uncertainty is the sole constant. “You can’t stay here, get your divorce and keep the child,” Hossein all but snarls at one characteristic low point. He might, as it happens, have cause to rethink that. Her path is dark but Shayda’s fine-boned beauty cloaks a formidable will, with a natural resilience that sparks like sunshine.