Director Behnam Behzadi’s elevating and insightful Inversion is a gentle but thought-provoking Iranian drama with a feminist outlook. Set in Tehran, the film follows the attractive Niloofar (Sahar Dowlatshahi), an unmarried tailor shop owner who lives with and cares for her mother. Over the course of the feature, Niloofar liberates herself by slowly learning to stand up to her own family when she realises that they are exploiting old-fashioned expectations of her to suit their own selfish needs.
Tehran is engulfed in an oppressive grey smog due to heavy air pollution in the area known as “thermal inversion”. There are frequent school closures and the city is no longer a safe place for people with respiratory problems. But the smog symbolises something darker too. When Niloofar leaves her ailing mother alone for the day, only to discover that she has suddenly been taken ill with respiratory failure, she meets with the rest of her family at the hospital to discuss what should be done. A doctor insists that her mother must leave Tehran and move to another city with cleaner air, or she will not survive. Tensions flare between Niloofar and her older siblings, Farhad (Ali Mosaffa) and Homa (Roya Javidnia), who initially blame her for their mother’s condition and accuse her of neglecting her. It is here that the film begins to point out some uncomfortable social inequalities. Without even asking how Niloofar feels about it, they decide that since she is unmarried and has no children, she should simply abandon her life in Tehran and move north with their mother, because it is her “duty”. Niloofar’s heart was set on running her tailor shop, and was also tied up in romantic feelings for an old friend she has been seeing (Ali Reza Aghakhani). Nonetheless, she finds herself being forced to give up her dreams and the potential relationship simply to appease her pushy family, and is left in a difficult personal dilemma.
Although nothing overly dramatic really happens in Inversion, it calmly and coolly portrays one woman’s quiet battle against the ever-prevalent dominance of men over women in Iranian society and the strict enforcement of female “obligation” towards family. For a likeable and career-driven modern character like Niloofar, these repressive notions must be overcome. The film is a romantic, empowering and comical mix, turning what might have been a sad story into an ultimately uplifting one.
Inversion is released nationwide on 19th May 2017.
Watch the trailer for Inversion here: