One of the strongest selections of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, “About Elly” is a psychologically penetrating film in which a woman’s disappearance gives rise to all sorts of complex issues of morality (both within an Iranian context and without), and questions of culpability and responsibility for tragedy. The film subtly switches from an observational and lightly comic portrait of Iranian middle-class life to a much darker morality play, and astutely demonstrates how both of these modes can be two sides of the same coin.
The story begins innocently enough: A group of university friends from Tehran goes on vacation at a beach house near the Caspian Sea. Shy kindergarten teacher and stranger to the group Elly (Taraneh Alidousti) is reluctantly dragged on the trip by her friend Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani), whose child is in Elly’s class. Sepideh’s hidden agenda in bringing Elly on this trip is to set her up with Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini), a divorcee visiting Iran and looking for a new wife. Elly resists for reasons that are revealed only much later. However, after Elly disappears, the deceits and personal agendas of the vacationers come to the surface.