No Date, No Signature

Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!
(Previous editions of Reeling can be downloaded from Vimeo by clicking this link.)

  No Date, No Signature
 

Dr. Kaveh Nariman (Amir Aghaee), a forensic pathologist in Tehran, has a minor accident with a motorcycle and the driver's 8-year old son is injured. The doctor offers to take the boy to a clinic but the father refuses his help. Early the next day, the coroner learns that the youngster is dead and questions whether he is responsible or not in "No Date, No Signature."

Robin:

The story, by sophomore feature director Vahid Jalilvand and co-scribe Ali Zarnegar, is a study about the doctor and the father whose lives, metaphorically and physically, collide in an unfortunate moment – caused by another driver. The doctor, whose car insurance has lapsed, is reluctant to call the police after the collision, even though the boy, Amir (Alireza Ostadi), has some minor injuries. Kaveh is concerned that something may be wrong, but the dad, taking the money Kaveh offers, just wants to get away. Then, Amir's body ends up at the morgue where the doctor works.

 

Amir Aghaee, as Kaveh, closely plays what could be guilt or suspicion or need to do what is right. I kept guessing over his motivation and behavior but the character has, we see, a sense of honor and dedication to his Hippocratic Oath. The doctor's story is just half of the picture, though.

 

At Kaveh's request, his colleague, Dr. Sayeh Behbahani (Hediyeh Tehrani) performs the required autopsy on the boy. She discovers that the boy had food poisoning, from eating botulism-tainted meat, and declares that the cause of death and found no evidence of a different reason. She tells Amir's father, Moosa (Navid Mohammadzadeh), and mother, Leila (Zakieh Behbahani). The blame, per the autopsy findings, is on Moosa. What impact this has on the tiny family will spiral out of their control.

 

The filmmakers make you invest yourself in the story, hoping that Kaveh does the right thing and feeling the very different pains that Moosa and Leila experience in their loss. Their story, and the sad results, is wrenching in their suffering, with Moosa's devastating guilt and Leila's deep grief that overwhelms them.

 

This powerful and personal pair of stories melds into something greater than the sum of its parts. I give it a B.

Laura:
When a car sideswipes his rear view mirror, forensic pathologist Kaveh Nariman's (Amir Aghaee) reaction causes him to hit a scooter bearing a family of four.  Attention first goes to the youngest child, a wailing little girl, but it is the uncomplaining 8 year-old boy Amir who turns up in Nariman's morgue the next day.  In a strange turn of events, his colleague Dr. Sayeh Behbahani (Hediyeh Tehrani) finds the cause of death to be botulism, but the guilt-wracked Kaveh cannot let the case go, especially after the boy's father Moosa (Navid Mohammadzadeh) is arrested for attacking a chicken seller in "No Date, No Signature."

This sophomore feature from writer/director Vahid Jalivand shows the influence of the moral and ethical quandaries broached in the films of Asghar Farhadi and the Iranian predilection for shooting in cars.  The winner of the 2017 Venice Film Festival's Best Director and Best Actor (Mohammadzadeh) is a trenchant exploration of guilt and the disparity of judicial punishment based on the class of the offender.

Amir is the calmest member of the Khonroodi family at the accident site, even sitting for a while with Kaveh in his car, his only complaint that his head hurts a little.  Nariman doesn't call the police because his insurance has expired, instead offering cash to Moosa to get his windshield fixed and take his son to the clinic down the road.  But Nariman watches as Moosa drives past the clinic, ignoring the doctor's signaling and turning down a side street.

Sayeh is quick to notice her colleague's intense interest in the young boy the next day, something he unconvincingly explains as a relationship with the boy's father.  'Must you tell me something but you don't?' she asks.  After the autopsy results are given to Moosa and his wife Leila (Zakieh Behbahani), Jalivand shifts his focus to the other man, now condemned by Leila for having bought cheap chicken carcasses.  Moosa reacts by going to the processing plant and attacking Habib, putting the man into a coma.  Moosa is arrested, his situation worsening when Habib dies.  As Moosa's life unravels, Nariman becomes more and more tortured, spilling his story to Sayeh and ordering an exhumation, his guilt putting his colleague in a bad position.

The film has a monochrome look, its most colorful scene, ironically, in a morgue autopsy room. Jalivand's screenplay is layered with complicating detail, but he is more interested in exploring characters under duress than solving his forensic mystery.  The ambiguity of his ending is reflected throughout in Aghaee's portrayal of Nariman, Mohammadzadeh's combination of rage and guilt more relatable.  Also fine are Tehrani and Behbahani, both actresses reactions changing in nature as they observe how circumstances affect Kaveh and Moosa.

Grade:  B
Back To Current Show
Next Show Previous Show
Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!

Home | Reviews and Ratings Archive  | Top 10 | Video | Crew | Article | Links

Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.

MRQE Top Critic Badge