Tehran: City of Love (3 stars)

Tehran: City of Love

Iranian director Ali Jaberansari takes a look at the flipside of love with a trio of rather downbeat tales

The title must be ironic. The Iranian capital seems to offer only heartbreak and isolation in Tehran: City of Love. Incurable romantics seeking cute couples and happy endings have definitely come to the wrong place. Director/co-writer Ali Jaberansari's trio of melancholy, low-key tales are marked by unrequited love, crossed wires and false hope.

Hessam (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) is a former bodybuilder and personal trainer who has just been cast in a film set to star Louis Garrel 'the most famous actor in France'. The fact that nobody in Iran has heard of Garrel is one of the film's running jokes. Hessam has also been hired to put the handsome Arshi (Amir Reza Alizadeh) through his paces for a bodybuilding championship in three months. As Arshi trains, sweats, showers and starts to bulk up, Hessam's hangdog expression and lingering gaze speaks volumes about his heart's desire.

Meanwhile, Mina (Forough Ghajabagli) is a brusque, overweight receptionist at a beauty clinic so desperate to find Mr Right that she has started to stalk the male clients. Sending false photos and husky voice messages, she arranges dates that she will never keep. Her consumption of ice-cream grows in proportion to her unhappiness. And, finally, Vahid (Mehdi Saki) is a singer who performs at funerals. His stern manner and unsmiling features reflect a man in a permanent state of depression. Rejection by his fiancée only intensifies his misery. A request to sing at weddings might be the change of fortune he needs.

There are few connections between the three characters who are only seen together in a plaintive closing shot that is one of the film's best moments. Instead, Jaberansari and co-writer Maryam Najafi stress the way they are united by a yearning for love that seems further from their grasp than ever by the end of this deadpan, downbeat film.

Limited release from Fri 11 Oct.

Tehran: City of Love

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • Iran / UK / Netherlands
  • 1h 42min
  • Directed by: Ali Jaberansari
  • Cast: Forough Ghajabagli, Mehdi Saki, Amir Hessam Bakhtiari
  • UK release: 14 October 2018

Hessam (Bakhtiari) is a former bodybuilder who’s been cast in a film; Mina (Ghajabagli) is a brusque receptionist at a beauty clinic desperate to find Mr Right; Vahid (Saki) is a singer who performs at funerals. A low-key, dowbeat trio of melancholy tales of unrequited love and crossed wires: the title is very ironic.