An Iranian seeks his own way in life in this tale set in England.


Shabab Hosseini


Extremely individual without a doubt, Gholam is a work that impressed me yet also left me feeling frustrated. It is a first feature from writer/director Mitra Tabrizian and its title is the name of its central character, an Iranian living in London. Gholam is played by Shabab Hosseini known to us for such films as The Salesman and A Separation and here he is on screen virtually throughout. The story takes place in 2011 and introduces us to Gholam as the driver of a mini-cab who also does some garage repairs for his uncle (Russell Parsi). Nevertheless, although he has some other relatives in London including a young cousin (Aimin Karima), Gholam can be thought of as something of a loner. He is getting by, but only just living as he does in shabby lodgings.


Gholam comes across as a film that locks the viewer into this man's private world and Tabrizian emphasises the extent to which his life centres on his work and on brief contacts with the passengers in his cab. Although Tabrizian has not photographed the film herself, her work as a photographer has clearly influenced the look of the film very ably shot by Dewald Aukema and Gholam has a character that is distinct and very much its own making Tabrizian a director to watch.


But the storytelling itself is much less satisfactory. Two Iranians seek out Gholam and through them we learn that he had been something of a war hero who had then disappeared. They are keen to lure him back, but the film never defines precisely what it is that they are suggesting which makes Gholam so certain that he should refuse. Viewers familiar with Iran's recent history may be able to draw their conclusions about this, but for others the pressure and possible threat that these men represent comes over as undefined, something that may be apt in a work such as Pinter's The Birthday Party but seems quite inappropriate here.


As it is we have to guess at Gholam's aims which initially could be a rejection of war or of particular forms of violence in a world where, by not interacting helpfully with others, many people are losing their humanity. Gholam by reaching out on occasion sets himself apart from such an attitude and shows special concern for an elderly black woman whom he befriends (she is played quite perfectly by Corinne Skinner-Carter). However, their connection leads to a major plot development that doesn't feel sufficiently explained.


These shortcomings in the writing make Gholam a rather unsatisfactory work, but Tabrizian shows such individual skill in her directing that it still deserves to be seen: such episodes as a brief, sinister dream sequence and the film's admirably realised last scene confirm that Tabrizian is the most striking new directorial talent to emerge in Britain since William Oldroyd gave us Lady Macbeth.




Cast: Shabab Hosseini, Behrouz Behnejad, Nasser Memarzia, Corinne Skinner-Carter, Russell Parsi, Aimin Karima, Tracie Bennett, Amerjit Deu.


Dir Mitra Tabrizian, Pro Zadoc Nava, Screenplay Mitra Tabrizian and Cyrus Massoud, from an idea by Mitra Tabrizian, Ph DeAwald Aukema, Pro Des St├ęphane Collonge, Ed Brand Thumim, Costumes St├ęphane Collange.


AltaraPictures/Aimimage-Miracle Communications.
95 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 23 March 2018. Cert. 15.