Director Mitra Tabrizian, who also came up with the original idea and developed the script with writer Cyrus Massoudi, has crafted an impressive debut feature here, giving viewers a film that is part character study, part look at how people choose to embrace or reject their past and culture while making a new life in the UK, and part look at certain elements of PTSD.
Shahab Hosseini plays Gholam. There are other people who come in and out of his life but this is very much Gholam's story, and very much Hosseini's film. He works hard for little reward, seemingly content to pay some kind of self-imposed penance when it becomes clear that he could be making his situation more comfortable. He doesn't like to accept gifts that are offered to him, and they are offered often (in terms of free food/drink anyway), and he spends a lot of his time quietly observing the people around him, seeing the good in some people and the very bad in others.
As trite as it may sound, this is a film in which nothing seems to be happening while so much is said. Gholam is an interesting, and not unlikable, character, and seeing what he goes through on a daily basis is a fascinating snapshot, at times I am sure quite representative of what many people have gone through after giving themselves a fresh start here in Britain.
Hosseini is superb in the role. His inability to accept gifts or favours always comes across as an issue of pride rather than ingratitude, and his quiet way of observing and weighing up every situation is a constant, essential, part of who he is, encouraging viewers to also look closer at everyone around him. Tracie Bennett, Nasser Memarzia, Amerjit Deu, and Armin Karima also deserve to be mentioned, playing the main people who come in and out of Gholam's life in major or minor ways, and the actors playing some of the more loathsome characters should receive due credit for their performances.
It's perhaps not as clean or satisfying as some film fans might like but not every film is best presented in that way. This certainly benefits from the style. Everything is laid out from the opening scenes, and only the most optimistic viewer would expect everything to pan out nice and neatly.
Tabrizian is a name to keep an eye on, this is a film you should seek out, and I'll be looking forward to whatever she does next, as well as hopefully working through the extensive filmography of Shahab Hosseini.
There doesn't seem to be any disc release for Gholam yet so just treat yourself to a free trial at MUBI for now.