When we first meet this family of four inside their cramped car headed to a mysterious destination, we note reassuring dynamics: in the back seat, an irrepressible younger son (Sarlak) chatters away, filled with boundless energy, while his father playfully scolds and banters with him. In front is the mother- strong, wise, and weathered, clearly the clan leader. Then there’s the quiet elder brother, driving next to her. An undercurrent of tension is felt as the miles pass, and we realize this is not just a carefree road trip. It seems the older brother must leave the country, and not by choice.
This debut feature from Panah Panahi, son of silenced Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, is fully worthy of his father’s brilliant body of work. Reflecting Iran’s oppressive society, much is left unsaid here. The fact we don’t hear the details of the older son’s predicament due to his much younger brother’s presence only makes the film more heartrending. Beneath the forced humor and resigned expressions lie sadness, worry and fear. Yet this portrayal of a loving family coping under stress also contains a measure of hope and affirmation, which makes this a trip well worth taking.