How far will a mother journey to find a lost son? Just about as far as is conceivable in the case of Pari, the compliant Iranian wife of Farrokh. They fly to Athens where son Babak is living, but from whom they have not heard for some time. “There, he is waving at you” says Farrokh as the plane descends towards the airport, but Pari can’t really enjoy the joke. Needless to say, Babak’s not waiting to greet them. Athens turns out to be an anarchic hell-hole in which an ongoing student uprising brings chaos and violence onto the streets. The bewildered and increasingly desperate couple are well out of their depth in the terrifying and culturally alien city, but it is Pari (‘winged being’ or ‘fairy’ in Farsi) who rises to the challenge – doggedly pursuing the few shreds of evidence that suggest their son was ever there and casting off another layer of patriarchal oppression with each step. “You’re just like him… you have this thing in you” says Farrokh, as the spirit of rebellion at large starts to liberate his wife, and as the quest to find her son also becomes an odyssey of self-discovery.
In writer-director Siamak Etemadi’s debut feature, Melika Foroutan puts in a memorable lead performance as the hijab-clad muslin wife, slowly stripping away layers of physical and mental inhibition as she ventures into ever darker territory. Impressive cinematography and location work build a palpable atmosphere, painting modern Athens as a graffiti-strewn inferno inhabited by menacing characters (one or two, intrigued by this woman’s resolve, are happy to offer guidance) and an enigmatic dog, possibly a guiding spirit, who shadows Pari. As the quest draws nearer to its conclusion the tone becomes more mystical as Pari effectively re-invents herself, and the words of Sufi poet Rumi, heard intoned by Pari as prologue to the film, take on their full significance – “I am thirsty for my own blood”.