The Salesman

The Salesman ★★★★½

From the writer-director of Persian gems like Fireworks Wednesday, About Elly, A Separation & The Past, The Salesman (also known as Forushande) is another nuanced portrait of domestic life from Asghar Farhadi that challenges its viewers' morality by contemplating on numerous social issues in an incredibly authentic & intricately human manner, and is structured & paced in a way that grips its audience like a tense thriller.

The story of The Salesman concerns a young Iranian couple who work as lead performers at a local theatre and are preparing for their next gig i.e. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Forced to leave their collapsing apartment due to dangerous works on an adjacent building, the two rent a new flat. Things are set in motion when an unexpected incident linked to the previous tenant occurs in their new home and turns their peaceful life upside down.

Written & directed by Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman finds the acclaimed filmmaker returning to his roots after crafting his previous film in the Parisian streets and is his fifth consecutive masterpiece. Crafted with immaculate vision & precision control, Farhadi narrates the entire tale like only he can and interweaves the film's complex themes & multi-layered structure into a single strand, which then allows him to establish & gradually escalate the tension.

The script is just as carefully refined as his direction, packing a believable set of characters whose well-defined arcs are handled in a sensible fashion. Farhadi's innate ability to bring his written characters to life with remarkable genuineness plus the close proximity between their situation and its very possibility of happening in real life resonates on such a personal level with the viewers that it allows them to invest in these scripted people's lives.

The technical aspects are expertly executed and work in near-perfect harmony to uplift the overall experience but does it so subtly that it never for once overshadows the main plot or its characters. Camera is brilliantly utilised, making exquisite use of fluid movements, controlled close-ups & sharp focus. Editing is its strongest element, for the runtime is never felt and it only gets more engaging as the plot progresses, and is at its finest during the devastating final act.

Coming to the acting department, The Salesman features an outstanding cast in Shahab Hosseini & Taraneh Alidoosti, playing the young couple whose relationship begins to turn sour following an unexpected tragedy. Both actors deliver measured & lifelike performances in their given roles and although Alidoosti expresses her character's post-traumatic stress with finesse, Hosseini further ups the ante with a deftly layered input and accurately illustrates his character's inner rage.

On an overall scale, The Salesman is an ingeniously directed, impeccably written, immaculately edited, beautifully acted & thoroughly engrossing piece of first-class cinema that unfolds with the charged tension of a great thriller, and culminates with a deeply upsetting, gut-wrenching & soul-shattering finale. Sincere in its approach, elegant in its portrait & grounded in its execution, Asghar Farhadi's latest is a tour-de-force of top-notch storytelling & top-tier acting and is one of the best all-round films of its year. Strongly recommended.

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