Known for her impressive short films The Silence and Gaze, Iranian filmmaker Farnoosh Samadi makes her feature debut with family drama 180 Degree Rule (Khate Farzi). It explores how one seemingly simple decision made by a parent can be drastically life-changing.
Based on a friend of Samadi’s real-life experience, this story set in Tehran follows teacher Sara (Sahar Dolatshahi) who is married to Hamed (Pejman Jamshidi). Their relationship feels strained when we first encounter them, like a union of convenience to care for their young daughter Raha. Sara wants to go to a family wedding in the North, but Hamed is not so keen. He is suddenly called away on a work trip, and forbids his wife from going. Sara makes the decision to go with her daughter anyway, but in secret. The consequences of her actions have a dire effect, with her resorting to secrets and lies upon Hamed’s return.
The film opens in distinctive Samadi style with a metaphor of simmering relationship tensions depicted by a pan of milk nearly boiling over on the stove. The clipped remarks between the couple paint a picture that is far from idyllic, while any respite only comes when the couple is around Raha.
Watching Asgari as pained mother Sara is utterly beguiling. She captivates the screen. The impact is further compounded by Samadi’s beautifully simplistic production values that focus attention fully on Sara’s raw emotions in a variety of framed shots, as she navigates the web of lies she and her family are weaving for Hamed’s return. We rarely leave Sara’s side throughout either, investing more in her troubled character as she grieves, plots, panics and accepts her fate.
This is more than just a morality tale too, but one fascinatingly interwoven with Iranian customs and strict rules from the female perspective. Sara steps outside the margins of what is accepted behaviour, effectively rebelling, and is punished by fate and the male-dominated authorities for doing so. This insight into some problems of Iranian tradition that women face is especially intriguing, given Sara is an educated female earning money in the capital, but does not enjoy the same freedoms as a woman in Western society in the same position has.
Samadi also adds a sub plot about one of Sara’s teenage female pupils who is in trouble in her personal life. This may seem like an unnecessary tangent at first, but it does go to reveal more depth into Sara’s character and the risks she is prepared to take, outside of expected norms. Adding this minor story is equally important, as Samadi further documents the challenges faced by half of Iranian society. Through filmmaking, she is actually forcing audiences to address these issues for the better.
180 Degree Rule descends into melodrama, bordering on farce as the family that includes wonderful performances by Azita Hajian, Hassan Pourshirazi, Mohammad Heidari, Amirreza Ranjbaran and Samadi acting regular Sadaf Asgari tries cover up, after cover up to resolve the immediate problem and keep under the authorities’ radar. A return to near normality at the end feels unsettling and unresolved within the film’s narrative. However, it sets up the climax that sees Sara make another life-changing decision – one that will divide viewers.
Samadi’s series of cause-and-effect events filmed in an almost Cinema verite style invite healthy scrutiny and conversation of events in 180 Degree Rule. The film’s title is based on filmmaking’s 180 degree rule that is a guideline for spatial relations between two characters on screen who should maintain the same left/right relationship to one another. In doing so, the director is asking us to incorporate some perspective. She also confronts this head on in her framing, keeping it uncluttered in production design. Combining solid technique and strong writing, Samadi is a thrilling future feature filmmaker to watch.