Farhadi remains a master of pace and tension, slowly upping the stakes in an unsettling narrative fuelled by a lingering sense of powerlessness, paranoia and the possibility that you never entirely know the person you love.
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Though a vengeance riff, it remains a Farhadi film all through, so dancing around each other means a lot of talking about action instead of doing action. And that’s fine – the former playwright is uncommonly gifted in writing third acts, where each line of dialogue and simple gesture are imbued with meaning.
Lacking the astounding social complexity of his Academy Award winning drama A Separation, here the gears are not so hidden and a sense of contrived drama leads to some tedious sections. But all is forgiven when the final punches are delivered in a knock-out finale that leaves the viewer tense and breathless.
Uncharacteristically inert, the film plods its way to a strained finale that erodes much of the strength of its potentially compelling themes.
Though it is dense in allusion and rich in texture, there are choices he makes that ultimately pull The Salesman back from the greatness, and the engulfing universality of his best work. It is as compelling as anything Farhadi has ever made, but it’s also somehow smaller.
This is a rich and complex take on guilt and anger.
For a healthy stretch, The Salesman is even more low-key, minimal, and contained than the earlier Farhadi films. Yet the writer-director’s technique is just as assured as before. Every shot is in place, every line leading to an outcome that feels quietly up for grabs.
The Salesman is a well-crafted, valuable drama.
Given that The Salesman strives to be far more than a revenge thriller, Emad’s story isn’t enough to make it an unqualified triumph, but it’s still a genuinely good film, and worth watching.
On this present occasion, Farhadi may hardly be reinventing himself, but his old tools serve him just fine.