First Run Features: Our Review of ‘Leila’ on OVID

Posted in What's Streaming? by - May 05, 2024
First Run Features: Our Review of ‘Leila’ on OVID

Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila is a mosaic of two families – one Reza’s (Ali Mossafa), an Iranian who has an austere family. The other is of the semi-modern Leila’s (Leila Hatami), an artsy bourgeois family, so I like them better. Within that mosaic is a psychological portrait of a titular character facing social pressures to bear a child.

I did state a preference for Leila’s family here, so of course the film gives a spotlight to Reza’s family. As a film does though, Leila gives nuance to Reza’s family, especially to his mother who drives conflict. She does ask Leila how she’s doing, portraying an outward nice politeness, but only after calling her barren within earshot.

Reza, as a husband, is mostly powerless, giving Leila the waves of psychological torture that aims to break her. Leila depicts this with visual references to Western films like Black Narcissus with the few fades to red. The shot of pearls falling down the drain is very Hitchcock, a reference enough to feed easy marks like me.

Being young in 90s Iran is different from the place and time when I was young but there are similarities, as Leila shows the immaturity of this couple even if Leila and Reza act like they’re above it. Upon the insistence of Reza’s mother (Jamileh Sheikhi), they look for a second wife and make a game of it. They can treat this wife hunting as a game but it eventually gets to their nerves.

Much of Leila is the titular character’s anguish but the film gives enough screen time to show how he feels. Most viewers see him as weak, but he does say no to the wife hunting but no one listens. Later scenes have Leila’s family (including Turan Mehrzad and Mohammadreza Sharifinia) grilling him about not speaking up which plays out as a dark comedy, like a Greek chorus beating Reza while he’s down.

There’s a portion of Iranian cinema that portrays culture around cars and traffic and Leila is one of them. There aren’t any road rages here but a lot of it has Reza driving around to those wife meetings. Yes, this little paragraph tries to connect Persian car culture with distance and other themes but those are true here.

The travelling that they have to do is just one of the things that take a toll on them and other is the wife hunting. Some, including Reza’s dad (Amir Pievar) , are against it but the women overpower them. Spoiler alert, Reza eventually finds a more fertile second wife (Shaghayegh Farahani). It’s an old adage to be careful what one wishes for but Leila shows the damage of wanting what others do.

Watch Leila on OVID.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');