Jafar Panahi’s film is very flat. That’s not an insult. What I mean is that it proceeds along without the emotional crests and valleys that one might be accustomed to — or is maybe expecting, in a film set in Iran, carrying with it as it does associations of emotional volatility. Passions are enflamed along the way — this being a film about soccer after all — but the emotional landscape stretches into the distance with nary a break in terrain. This life-like grasp for the emotional reality of moments is refreshing, recognizing that the emotional sting of disappointment has eventually to be appeased and must come to rest someplace.
Such is the case with the half dozen girls who have been caught trying to slip into an international soccer match and detained by the young, nervy army recruits. Their frustrations butt heads, converse and eventually reach an uneasy truce.
“Why don’t they want women to watch soccer?” One asks the officer in charge. “Because of the swearing?” But how come the Japanese women could attend the game?” “Because they can’t understand our language,” he reasons. Her reply — “So our crime is that we’re born in Iran.” That, it would seem is the heart of the matter for Panahi. But the route he takes to arrive at this conclusion (by no means, the ultimate one) is so well conceived, it feels invisible in its authenticity.