Mahnaz Mohammadi, Iran 2019
Leila (Raha Khodayrari), a single mother of two children, a 12-year-old son, Amir (Mahan Nasiri), and an infant daughter. Leila works at a factory which is failing due to the economic sanctions against Iran. When she refuses to join the worker protests, her colleagues denounce her and she is fired. She has little choice but to accept the marriage proposal of the factory bus driver Kazem (Reza Behbudi). Due to Kazem having a daughter of a similar age as Amir, society and tradition, refuse to allow the two children to live together. Leila has to face the impossible choice between her daughter and her son in a film which illuminates the destructive factors of poverty and strict societal pressures on women and children in Iran.
SOHN-MUTTER is a film split into two parts. The first section focuses primarily on Leila and her daily struggle to make ends meet while also dealing with the attentions of the various men in her life. While the extreme circumstances in which she is faced are well defined, the character never manages to become fleshed-out enough to evoke strong emotions from audiences. She is drawn very simplistically, a mother in an impossible situation who must make difficult choices, but we never learn her dreams or thoughts. In contrast, the second section is from the perspective of Amir as he is sent to live in a boarding school for deaf children (even though he is not deaf). He dreams of his mother returning to collect him, but as time passes, he becomes more and more convinced that such a day will never come. It is during this second part that the film becomes more powerful in its message and delivers on its message about how these antiquated societal rules have real and tragic consequences.
It is disappointing that the male characters both seem to be given more context and complex scenes for character development whereas the female lead is merely a trope of a powerless mother in an unfair society. Considering it is this very sexism that leads to such terrible situations as depicted in the film, it is unfortunate that SOHN-MUTTER seems to add to it in its own small way. Until women are allowed to exist as complete and complex individuals both in society and in art, it unlikely that there will be any change and SOHN-MUTTER does little to shine light on this problem despite its intentions.