Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini in The Salesman.
The official summary of The Salesman
is “the story of a couple whose relationship begins to turn sour during their performance of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
.” It’s not untrue, but also way off—when Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) is attacked in their new apartment, her husband Emad (Shahab Hosseini) quietly plots his revenge on her assailant. It’s a stoic movie, with the details of the offscreen assault unravelling slowly, and the climax is one brief, tiny bit of violence, but The Salesman
has spent so much careful time building to it that it hits like a gut-punch. It’s Hosseini’s movie for the most part—Rana will not properly deal with her trauma, retreating instead—but Alidoosti comes to life in the final third. Their relationship feels real and lived-in. Rana and Emad are also portraying Willy and Linda Loman in what appears to be a high-end community theatre production of Miller’s iconic American play; the parallels aren’t revealed until the end credits begin. Director Asghar Farhadi won an Oscar for his 2011 film A Separation
; The Salesman
is nominated next week. The Iranian director will not be attending in protest of the US Muslim ban.