I Am a Mother
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The opening line of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, renowned for its universal appeal, is once again employed to neat effect as it begins the affecting story of I Am a Mother.
The story follows one such unhappy family: Nahid, Nadar and Ava (mother, father and daughter respectively). The parents are out of love with one another and the tensions of their imminent divorce are naturally impacting on their respective relationships with their daughter. Nadar’s confidant “Uncle” Saeed is long-time a friend of the family who is deeply trusted by all, until one evening he sexually assaults Ava. She murders her attacker in reprisal, an act that her mother Nahid tries to take responsibility for in order to spare her life. Remarkably, it’s only after this notable turn of events that the real drama begins.
What sets I Am a Mother apart is its unique ability to utilise and explore the principle of Qisas, the Islamic law that allows for equal retaliation, or as the maxim goes: “an eye for an eye”. An example of this practice recently caught the attention of Western media when an Iranian woman who was blinded by an acid attack initially demanded that her attacker be blinded in return, only to have an 11th-hour change of heart that led to him being pardoned.
It’s this specific situation that constitutes the film’s final act as Nahid and Nadar negotiate with Simin, the wife of the murdered man, in an attempt to convince her to grant their daughter clemency. Typically, there are far more complexities to the characters and their relationships than could ever be fully revealed and discussed outside of the film. Suffice to say, the depth of their rendering and the importance of the questions raised throughout are, at times, almost Shakespearean.
But what’s most impressive about I Am a Mother is the humour with which the story’s told. Given the undeniably harrowing subject matter, laughs are the very last thing you’d expect to find in a tale of this nature, and yet it manages to regularly find them throughout and prevents the experience from becoming too distressing to be watchable. Ultimately, though, it remains foremost a tragedy, and the final frames will haunt audiences for days.
I Am a Mother will be available to view online at IMVBox. For further information visit here.