Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Persian Version, as the title suggests, is about a Persian family that is vastly different from American families. Whether you are from the Middle East, Africa, or South America, the American Dream is very alluring to foreigners. Yet, no matter what walk of life you come from, religious background, or race, everybody has the same domestic problems. In many ways, this has similar issues to a lot of American families. That's the crux of this story.
Leila (Layla Mohammed) is like any young woman. She goes out partying, drinking herself into a stupor, and sleeping with whoever she meets that night at the local bar or club she went to. The problem is she wakes up the next morning feeling sorry for herself and what she has done. Combine that with her not having much of a future and an overbearing mother who wants her to have a successful life and not waste her life away, and you get the idea of what this story is about.
Leila wants to straighten her life out, but sometimes things happen you don't foresee. You just have to make the best of a bad situation if you're a young woman in her shoes. Her parents — mainly her mother, in this situation — need to stand by her. And while I felt for this girl, I also felt bad for her mother, who had her own arc in the film. She, who is Iranian just like her husband, is having a hard time making it in America and trying to raise a family. Add in some political connotations that arise because they are Iranian immigrants, and it's not easy to sympathize with the family at the center of this story.
I had a rough upbringing, and my mother struggled to raise four children without much help from my father because he was an alcoholic. The mother in the film, played by Niousha Noor, had a determination to succeed. That's where her daughter gets the determination from. Both women are a bit stubborn in their own way, though. They need their space and they need to succeed on their terms, and that's what they do despite being part of such a powder keg of political strife during this time in New York/America.
There have been other films about Chinese culture, Mexican culture, or even Asian culture that have told similar types of stories, but none of them have had such a realistic take on the family dynamic as The Persian Version. I have been constantly thinking about it ever since I saw it. It hit me in a way I didn't expect. It’s also interesting to see the cultural differences and similarities in the Iranian-American community, especially as politics get in the way of how they are perceived by Americans, particularly post-9/11.
The Persian Version is a strong film about strong women who are trying to be respected in their community and the eyes of America. The two main women in the film who play mother and daughter are both very good. Maryann Kesharvz, the director, captured the struggles of an Iranian family in America perfectly. She also created a story that is relatable to quite a bit of Americans. Driven single mothers are becoming more and more prevalent in this country, and that's what the movie is trying to say about this country and women in general. This was a terrific look at these subjects.
The Persian Version hits theaters on October 20.