In almost documentary-like style, director Rafi Pitts weaves for the viewer a fable-like story that starts with a young boy (Issa) witnessing his father's death at the hands of horsemen in the rural hills of Iran. Connecting immediately to social ills of Iran, the father's death forces his mother (Sanam) and he to abandon their home and move in with an aunt. There, the two resume a hard life working in the fields.
Sanam is desperate to provide a life and future for her son, but not desperate enough to take the easiest way out - by remarrying. While Sanam is painfully aware of the faults of her son's father, she struggles with Iranian authorities to bring justice to the killers and to seek financial security for herself and her son.
The boy can only feel vengeful about his father's murder. He becomes obsessed with with the horse that he insists belonged to his father, that others insist the father had stolen. The scenes of Issa arguing with the shepherd are priceless.
It's a simple story but the cinematography is brilliant and beautiful and the shots of life in the village are painfully good at capturing the hard life the people are enduring. The cast is solid from top to bottom, but the star of the show is clearly the young boy who plays the role with a maturity rarely seen in a boy of 10 years. His eyes, his face, his skin are all perfectly cast, and in fact the boy was literally found by the director after an exhaustive search in the rural villages of iran. His portrayal was so realistic and believable that it was hard not to feel genuine sympathy for not only the character, but even the actor. If anything, he was almost too real... (9/10)
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