Come through, Iranian cinema: No Date, No Signature (2017) film review

I haven’t seen a more affecting performance in film this year than Navid Mohammadzadeh in No Date, No Signature. If anything, Navid Mohammadzadeh’s brilliantly heartbreaking monologue is enough to send you watching No Date, No Signature this instance. 12_no_date_no_signature_2No Date, No Signature, directed by Vahid Jalilvand, underscores the grim reality between the well-to-do and the poor in modern Iran. Both worlds come into collison, literally, after a car accident, subsequently resulting in a fatal consequence. The film then shuffles between two tales of guilt and righteousness, seeing how both the rich and the poor negotiate and claim responsibility for causing a death.

First and foremost, No Date, No Signature is a starkly clean film, which is extremely aesthetically pleasing. If you enjoy greyscale, monochromatic schemes, that is. It is also clean in terms of sound. Background music is largely absent, and save for some startling, seemingly organic instances of sound effects, No Date, No Signature works primarily with dialogue. The imagery and music (or lack thereof) force you to confront the harsh realism of this film, and you can appreciate them not shying away from reality.

However, the drawback of this is that you may find your attention slipping away, like I did. For one, I can admit that this is the problem with modern-day filmgoers: we need constant stimulation. But the pacing of the film does get a little too slow at times. Sometimes, conversations seem to go about in circles, particularly with the pathologist, Dr. Kaveh Nariman (Amir Agha’ee). He is definitely a budding source of frustration as the film progresses. The film pushes his adamance for justice, while alluded to at the start of the film, slightly over the edge as he continues to grapple with his role in the death. There were certainly moments where I questioned his determination and motivation. The believability of this film definitely gets slightly muddled with the portrayal of Dr. Nariman.

Yet, the shining star of this incredibly bleak film, like I said, is Navid Mohammadzadeh, who plays a grief-stricken father, Moosa. You probably won’t be able to root for Moosa initially, especially after the way he handles the car accident. Yet, the film gradually reveals how their pre-existing circumstances have led up to this fateful moment, and you just can’t help but sympathise with this character by the end of the film. You understand his desperation, that he is just trying to provide the best he can for his family. Most importantly, you recognise that he is only human. We have all been guilty of doing things we believe are right, until they are not. And you can see how this guilt eats into Moosa, fantastically delivered in his gut-wrenching monologue at the chicken factory. That scene still sends chills all over my arms. It is that good.

What I really enjoyed about No Date, No Signature is that it doesn’t try to be too grandiose. It is simply about two men from completely different backgrounds, whose lives are intertwined by a single, tragic incident, and how they use their (lack of) power to negotiate the reality of the situation. And it is bolstered by top-notch performances and a hauntingly beautiful cinematography. I give No Date, No Signature an: A-.

Let me know if you’ve caught No Date, No Signature. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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