Objects in Mirror
Many films have managed to find the extraordinary within the quotidian exercise of daily lives. The Iranian film “Objects in Mirror” takes this to the extreme, focusing on the plight of a single young housewife in Tehran, whose entire world consists of kitchen, children, her elderly neighbors and her lackadaisical husband.
Leila (Gelare Abbasi) is a provincial girl, not terribly sophisticated or smart. She has a toddler daughter and is huge with another child. She struggles greatly with the day-to-day running of her tiny apartment household – getting food on the table, sniping with her husband, Fadrid (Hessam Bigdelu), and dealing with the expectations of her in-laws.
Leila relies heavily on her next-door neighbors, Aziz and Eti, who are also their landlords. With Fadrid studying aquafarming and driving a taxi itinerantly, money is scarce. His family is well-to-do but miserly with offers of assistance. On the flipside, Eti is a veritable fount of generosity, constantly dropping off food, giving advice and helping out. They even let Leila use their phone to call her distant family.
Fadrid is embarrassed by how much his wife leans on the oldsters but isn’t really in a position to do more than gripe. Meanwhile, their daughter is battling an illness, and Leila’s pregnancy is limiting her energy.
The big crisis is when she borrows a set of nice plates from Eti when her in-laws are coming by for a formal dinner, and then breaks one of them. Eti was planning to give them as a gift to someone else, so Leila is mortified. But rather than confess her accident, she undertakes the task of finding an exact replacement to conceal the breakage.
This may not sound like a big deal, but for a pregnant woman in an Islamic country, going to the huge bazaars is a major undertaking. It includes encounters that both bolster and undermine her confidence and sense of independence, including helping a lost girl not much older than her own, and being pitied by a purse-snatcher.
Director Narges Abyar composes some lovely shots, and there’s some lyricism in the way Leila gazes upon others, clearly envious of an existence less circumscribed than hers. But the truth is the movie ends up being a frightful bore. It’s like being locked in that apartment with Leila, with little to do but fret with children, cook meals and gossip with the neighbors.
Stories of ordinary people can be magical, but this one is just mundane.