In some ways, The Salesman is almost as good as director Asghar Farhadi’s earlier humanist tragedy, the Foreign Language Oscar-winner A Separation. In terms of plot construction and interweaving complex moral dilemmas with more traditional kinds of narrative suspense, Salesman is sometimes even a superior achievement.
Shahab Hosseini (winner of the Best Actor prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival) and Taraneh Alidootsi play Emad and Rana, a sophisticated and likable couple who are acting in a production of ‘Death of a Salesman’. When their apartment building is damaged by nearby construction, they temporarily move into a flat generously offered by a member of their troupe.
Unbeknownst to them, the previous tenant was a prostitute. After Rana is assaulted one night while home alone, Emad becomes obsessed with finding out which one of the other woman’s clients did the deed.
While Rana’s psyche crumbles and Emad turns darker, their modern Persian marriage falls prey to all the sexism, paranoia and mental brutality the Islamic theocracy can inspire, even among its best-educated liberals. All of that gets multiplied tenfold in the film’s climax – what may be the best-written and performed final act of any film this decade.
I’m not quite sure how Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman is meant to mirror Emad – Western ideals crashing into a wall of grim reality, maybe? But I do know that by the time the movie ends, right, wrong, love, anger, justice, remorse, respect and understanding have all been put to the test and mostly found wanting.
– Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News