From its harrowing opening point-of-view shot to its emotionally demanding narrative, A Respectable Family cracks open the shell of Tehran society and exposes the guts of the personal and political machinery its residents must navigate. Massoud Bahkshi’s A Respectable Family is a study in provocative, unflinching filmmaking.
Twenty-two years have passed since Arash (Babak Himidian) was exiled from Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. In exile, he has walked away from a family fortune built from dubious sources. Present day, Arash is living as a university professor in Paris.
After a family emergency, Arash returns to Iran. He immediately finds it difficult to reconnect with his family after spending decades immersed in Western culture. He also is forced to confront long-buried traumatic memories involving those closest to him. Arash’s mother refuses to acknowledge these realities and the alienation between the generations appears insurmountable. Arash finally finds what seems to be an ally in his younger half-brother Hamed (Mehrdad Sedighian). However, Hamed and Arash do not share the same objective. Ultimately, Arash is presented with a moral dilemma and no apparent “good” choice. Two paths lie before him. He is forced to navigate the murky border between loyalty and morality.
Director Massoud Bahkshi flexes his documentarian muscles in his feature film debut. Presenting actual archive footage from the Iran-Iraq war, he expertly creates an amalgam of fact and fiction. Flashbacks trace the history of Arash’s life and inform his decisions in the present, while simultaneously offering a narrative opportunity to explore one of the most misunderstood conflicts in recent memory. Sweeping imagery of modern day Tehran further emphasizes explicit contrasts with an understated approach. In A Respectable Family past and present are constantly informing each other.