Protection: Our Review of ‘Shayda’

Posted in Theatrical by - March 22, 2024
Protection: Our Review of ‘Shayda’

For Shayda, director Noora Niasari takes inspiration from her childhood as an Australian-Iranian during the mid 1990s. She also imagines what her mother went through as the titular character (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) tries to escape a husband, Hossein (Osamah Sami), who abuses her. During one of the scenes in the film, she prepares an impact statement for the courts. Doing so takes a bit of her emotional energy, so she takes a quick break. Most of the film takes place in a women’s shelter, which is, in theory, a safe space. But even such spaces can’t help Shayda escape her trauma, even with the companionship of fellow women like her. That trauma resurfaces as there are times when Shayda steps back into Australia’s little Iranian diaspora.

Most of the film has both Shayda and her daughter Mona preparing for whatever Hossein may do. The first scene has Shayda and the shelter’s mother hen, Joyce (Leah Purcell), doing a dry run in case Hossein kidnaps Mona. That becomes more plausible as a judge grants that Hossein can visit Mona without supervision. I normally do research while watching films like this but if any Australian lawmakers are reading this and if that law is still in the books, please change that law. That detail subverts assumptions that some viewers may have about diasporic problems. Sure, the film depicts members of that diaspora defending Hossein even if he’s acting out in public. But as Shayda shows, Western countries fail women of colour especially during times when they need protection.

I’ve read some reviews of Shayda and pointed out that it braces its viewers for the inevitable violent encounter between its protagonist and her abuser. This, in all honesty, makes no sense to me. And then there’s the criticism that the story is conventional, which is, admittedly is in the right direction of a proper nitpick against this. The film tries to spice itself up through the visits as well as the times when Shayda encounters the diaspora. But most of the film takes place inside the shelter. The few locations somehow contribute to the murkiness of a visual language that feels negligible. The sound design’s occasional spottiness also takes away from the poignancy of the scenes between Shayda and the shelter’s other residents.

One thing that may drive Shayda over the edge is Mona as a character. There are times when she may do something that may get Shayda in bigger trouble than the latter already is. But like most child characters, she also swings into the other direction. the film, then, uses the trope where a kid becomes smarter as the film progresses. The film is cognizant of Mona’s intellectual and emotional states. This is in full display during a scene where Shayda and some community members celebrate Persian New Year. Viewers can feel her fear as she spots Hossein during the party and she runs away from him. Even as the film almost falls apart, it still builds up into a penultimate moment that it choreographs well.

Watch Shayda in select Canadian theatres. Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett serve as executive producers. The film depicts disturbing subjects. Please take care of yourselves while watching this and there are resources for those in need.

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');