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To a Western audience, the term “Muslim cleric” doesn’t usually conjure up friendly associations. So it’s refreshing to see an intimate domestic portrait of Seyyed, an Iranian mullah-in-training, and his wife Zahra, who have just moved to Tehran with their two children so he can finish his education. When Zahra contracts multiple sclerosis, Sayyed has to abandon his studies to take care of his family and continue his wife’s work weaving a carpet in order to pay the bills. There’s an agonizing tension in Zahra’s every lost faculty, and in every thread Sayyed cuts to make a carpet seller’s deadline. As a character, Zahra is an unfortunately uncomplicated model Muslim wife. But Sayyed is more multifaceted, deeply loving Zahra while resenting the distraction from his studies, and musing aloud about the woman he might marry next to be a mother to his children—as if there’s nothing wrong in planning to replace Zahra before she’s even passed away. In the end, Sayyed’s devotion is tied with a neat bow into his religious education, which is supposed to be rooted in love, after all. Obvious moral of the story aside, it’s a compelling and well-composed narrative, shot with the kind of muted palette that somehow fills every moment with truth.
At 6:30 p.m.; also on Sunday, April 10 at 5 p.m. Both showings at Avalon Theatre.