For some people, it appears to be better to stretch the truth than be completely honest about certain things. In most instances, there’s no malice behind the reasons people do this, but it still may lead to negative consequences once the truth starts to surface. That’s the kind of predicament that we find in About Elly, a simple yet complex psychological thriller that’s making its way to America six years after its release in its home country of Iran.
When a group of longtime friends decide to get together for an intimate getaway, having a fun time bonding with one another would seem to be more than enough to bring bundles of enjoyment. With them, they’re bringing great energy, love and a collective spirit together. This has all the making’s of a vacation that anyone would be happy to be a part of, but that joy turns to despair once Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), the newest member of the circle mysteriously vanishes.
While watching About Elly, you’ll notice that there’s no real point to the vast majority of the early scenes before the first plot point. This portion of the film does serve as a way to introduce the characters while showing them having a great time with one another, but things end up dragging on for a while as we’re asked to watch them partake in mundane activities that only serve as a way to lengthen the film’s run time.
For someone such as myself, this is certainly not a positive quality. I always prefer that movies not waste too much time when they don’t need to. Even when I find whatever it is that I’m watching to be ultimately entertaining, stuff this uninteresting and meaningless makes it hard to pay attention to as we’re waiting for things to really kick off.
In this picture, once we get past that first thirty minutes or so, things begin to get more interesting and crucial to the actual story that About Elly is telling. With the help of the plot point itself, it becomes easy to get locked in to what’s taking shape right before your eyes. Not only does it grab your attention, it forces the tone to shift from a happy, joyous one to a worrisome one filled with grief and a threat of irreversible misery.
After the frantic pace featuring a highly emotional case of hysteria, About Elly does find a way to settle down as they reach the aftermath portion of this part of the film. What’s being poured out here can be described as a steady, exquisite descent into an already vexing situation. The characters who find themselves searching for Elly become bewildered as they desperately try to piece together all of what’s happened in such a short period of time.
During these moments of despondency and confusion, you feel that the emotion flowing out of these actors are sincerely genuine. In doing this, these guys successfully bear carry the load when it comes to translating the film’s sense of despair to the audience. You’re not going to find too many movies with this number of actors capable of doing that, but About Elly is one of the few that is able to accomplish this feat.
Watching this and Asghar Farhadi’s previous work as writer/director, it’s clear that he has faith in the actors he brings in to get his messages across. As seen in films like A Separation, he doesn’t like even try to include music to assist them, so that puts even more pressure on the actors to perform. In taking such an unconventional route, it also illustrates his excellence when it comes to ratcheting up the tension with emotion while effectively utilizing frustration shortly after everything is established.
Outside of the opening act that includes unnecessary scenes, the only thing that I really found myself complaining about comes from the fact that these characters could have actually tried to get the authorities involved a bit more. Not one of them appears to know what actually happened to Elly, but instead of taking the expected approach, they would rather sulk and eventually lose their composure. I don’t know how the police work over in Iran, but I’m sure pushing them to investigate further would have been more reasonable.
Overall, About Elly is a very strong movie that heavily relies on its characters and the suspense that’s constantly building around them. There’s nothing special about it visually, but everything else included turns this into a feature that should be watched by mature audiences looking for content created specifically for them. Yeah, it took six years for it to find its way over to America, but I’d say that it’s definitely worth the wait.
Director: Ashgar Farhadi
Film Length: 119 minutes
June 6, 2009 (Iran)
April 8, 2015 (Limited)
May 8, 2015 (Limited)
Distributor: Cinema Guild