African Violet has a seemingly strange premise. A married woman named Shokoo tries to convince her current husband Reza to allow her ex husband Fereydoun to move in. It sounds like the set up for a screwball comedy. It has been the foundation of plenty of sitcoms and movies. Instead, it is a moving story about independence and honor.
Movies from foreign countries open up the eyes of the viewer. Not only do they get to see filmmaking from other places, they are a window into another culture. African Violet is no different. It is a glimpse into a life not normally seen on Hollywood screens. At least, it is a life not normally depicted in this way. It is a more intimate portrayal.
Initially African Violet seems to feed into many of the worst stereotypes. The men are misogynistic and Shokoo is regarded as something of an anomaly. There is no malice in the storytelling. It is just a first hand depiction of Iran. It soon turns out comparing Middle Eastern customs to those of America are not the point. African Violet is more about similarities. Not about the likenesses found in cultures but the ones found in people around the world.
Due to the strange arrangement, the three leads are filled with feelings of inadequacy and sadness. As the plot progresses, it is revealed that the trio have a much deeper past. It is in these moments that the full emotion of African Violet hits the audience. Love and friendship are tested. As more of their pasts are revealed, it becomes more clear why the situation is more fraught with emotion than it normally may be.
African Violet is beautiful to look at. The film is bathed in a warmth that will engulf the audience. Director Mona Zandi Haghighi sets an emotional tone that is matched by the setting. When bright colors are thrown into the brown landscapes, they enhance the mood of the story. The story does waiver at times. There is a subplot that ends with a night in jail that ultimately adds little to African Violet. While it gives more knowledge into the culture, the story has already done a good enough job. It is a slightly fruitful, if unnecessary, detour.
African Violet is an emotionally powerful movie. The story will surprise audiences with its relatable premise. The film introduces foreign cultures, but focuses more on the commonalities between everyone.