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‘Empty Nets’ Review: A Striver Sinks In an Involving Iranian Drama



It’s onerous to observe “Empty Nets” and never consider “Luzzu,” the current, poignant Sundance prizewinner from Malta: In each movies, enterprising younger males left within the lurch by a nationwide monetary disaster should resort to black-market fishing to, properly, keep afloat. (All we’d like is a 3rd movie paddling in such forbidden waters to declare a brand new neo-realist pattern.) In “Luzzu,” the protagonist was a lifelong fisherman captivated with his commerce, whereas Behrooz Karamizade’s lean, engrossing, Iran-set debut facilities on a useful novice merely trying to make a fast buck. On this economic system, nonetheless, such variations show immaterial. It doesn’t matter the place you’re coming from, except you’re coming from cash: You’re in any other case all sinking under the floor.

Premiering in the principle competitors at Karlovy Range, it is a confidently quiet, elegiac first function from Iranian-German writer-director Karamizade — who brings a sure European arthouse sheen to a narrative in any other case steeped within the stark trendy custom of Iranian social realism. It’s a mix that ought to safe this eminently accessible movie a slightly full web of additional competition berths; given its restricted name-recognition issue, distributors could also be slower to chew. Nonetheless, “Empty Nets” feels just like the sort of title that would floor later down the road in sure territories, ought to Karamizade make good on his promise in subsequent options.

Life appears pretty simple on the movie’s outset for working-class city twentysomething Amir (fresh-faced newcomer Hamid Reza Abbasi), whose free time revolves across the two issues he loves most — open-water swimming and his adoring girlfriend Narges (Sadaf Asgari), which he tends to mix in oceanside trysts away from town, the place they have to maintain their romance a secret. There’s the complication: Narges comes from a rich, snooty household unlikely to contemplate Amir, who lives together with his single mom (a wonderful Pantea Panahiha) and makes a modest earnings as a cater-waiter, an acceptable match for his or her princess. Nonetheless, he’s a striver, decided to avoid wasting sufficient to afford her lofty dowry.

That plan hits a wall when Amir loses his job — blamelessly, let it’s mentioned, for employers and cash males are persistently the villains right here — and, owing to a normal recession, is unable to discover a new one near house. Determined, he follows the one lead he’s given, to a fishery some hundred miles away on the Caspian shoreline, the place staff are bodily and financially exploited by coldly corrupt bosses. However it’s a dwelling, and one wherein Amir swiftly excels, largely because of his prodigious swimming expertise. When he learns that the most effective cash is to be made by way of unlawful nighttime operations to poach endangered wild sturgeon for his or her extremely prized caviar — necessitating some hair-raising underwater labor — he’s fast to get entangled.

The additional draw back to this dangerous, back-breaking work is that it severely limits the period of time he can spend with an more and more annoyed Narges — simply as her dad and mom are pushing her towards a well-off suitor of their selecting. “Money is all that matters,” he despairs, considerably needlessly articulating the message staring all of them within the face. His fishery roommate, would-be author Omid (Keyvan Mohamadi), sees no future in any respect in a rustic he deems “one dead end after another,” and is simply ready for somebody to smuggle him away throughout the water. However the seas are tough, the prospects murky.

As a portrait of entrenched inequality and diminished alternatives in up to date Iran, this straightforward, solemn story might hardly be extra damning, even when Karamizade’s screenplay isn’t as knotty with political particulars because the work of outspoken compatriots like Mohamed Rasoulof — with whose 2020 Berlinale champ “There Is No Evil” this debut occurs to share ace DP Ashkan Ashkani. In “Empty Nets,” Ashkani matches the movie’s forecast with equally foreboding, storm-colored imagery, low on gentle and typically swallowed by the ocean. Narges’ headscarves, in vivid shades of claret and turmeric, are considerably tellingly the one heat tones to penetrate the murk: Even colour is for the wealthy alone.

Albeit grounded in very glum actuality, there’s a fable-like high quality to “Empty Nets” because it trades in clear, contrasting archetypes: venal capitalistic ogres and virtuous victims predominate, although Amir will get extra fascinating as he will get extra compromised, his plight luring him towards exploiting and failing his fellow males. Narges is slower to disclose such depths, although if some viewers are made to wonder if she’s completely well worth the strife, that could be the script’s intent. Extra silently storied and sympathetic is Amir’s mother, cynical and bone-weary from a society that accords her little worth, and the one particular person encouraging her son to place himself first, sink or swim.

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