2 January 2006 | zwirnm
Well-meaning and handsome, but too stolid
Omar Khayyam was a Persian astronomer, mathematician, and poet in the 11th Century, famous today for Edward Fitzgerald's 1859 translations of his works into English. The Keeper is a well-meaning and handsome (if a bit stolid, and poorly edited at times) attempt to render his life meaningful today, written by Iranian-American lawyer/filmmaker Kayvan Mashayekh.
To keep things relevant, Mashayekh presents through the eyes of a young Iranian-American boy in Houston (Adam Echahly) who is a descendant of the family who takes it upon himself to "keep" and transmit the story. The title character (Bruno Lastra) is presented in an admirable if a bit sycophantic light, as is his love story with Darya (Marie Espinosa), to whom he composed most of his most famous love poems. The scenes (set in Uzbekistan, with period jaunts elsewhere) are ably filmed and mostly elegant, although the level of the actors' engagement doesn't rise above a slow simmer most of the times. The principal conflict is between Khayyam and lifelong friend Hassan (Christopher Simpson), which Mashayekh hopes to make emblematic of a host of larger conflicts - between science and religion, between universalism and sectarianism, between worldliness and Islamic separatism. It succeeds only in pieces. The editing is also a bit spotty, and at certain points I felt that too much of the story had been cut.
The film is one of those that serves a valuable public function; informing the movie-going world about Khayyam's legacy and the larger history of Islamic science and mathematics is a meaningful one, and I saw a host of Iranian-American families at the screening taking part in their cultural heritage. It doesn't win on purely cinematic terms, but it's an engaging and wholly good-hearted exercise regardless.