The Day I Became a Woman

The Day I Became a Woman ★★★★

A set of three stories about the three phases of the life of woman. The title likely refers to the first story when on that fateful day young when Hava becomes a woman at age 9, she will no longer be able to play with her male friend. It is the day she will start to lose her freedom, her last moments spent with him as they share a lollipop.

This film is full of wonderful and subversive imagery. Hava watches the shortening shadow of the propped-up stick that signals her lingering moments of childhood vs. the boy behind the bars of his window while he does homework whose incarceration is far less serious. In the second story there is the cross-cutting of the woman, Ahoo, frantically pedaling her bicycle and the galloping hooves of her tribe's horses as they chase her. And finally the feeble old woman, Hoora, and the fleet of boys following her with carts containing all of the furniture and appliances she just bought, all to be set up on the beach, her home and family gone or forgotten.

Meshkini is clearly critical of the treatment of women in Iran as they become beholden to the dictates of society, of communities, and of husbands. But beyond the burdens they face in womanhood, all three protagonists share an uncrushable spirit for life that persists beyond their individual circumstances and serves as the thread that connects them. Their eventual collapse into one story is not trite or a simplification, but representative of the recursive nature of their lives, that this is not the story of one woman, but of many. And as this was written by Meshkini's husband and director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, it has something of his sense of whimsy and lightness. The desperate escape in the second act notwithstanding, the first and last story are full of levity, even if there is a strong undercurrent of foreboding in the former and remorse in the latter. It is because we know more of the young girl's future than she does, and more of old Hoora's past than she can recall.

If anything, it is refreshing to see a film made by a woman when these days it's more the exception than the rule. And it continues the great tend of Iranian films whose surprisingly healthy industry as given us many invaluable contemporary directors.

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