“The Persian Version”: Strong Mother Daughter Story

“The Persian Version” trailer had me excited, particularly for the strong comedic overtones and a story written from an Iranian-American point of view. I enjoyed the screening, particularly the strong mother daughter story and the struggles both mother and daughter face both in their lives and between each other. I did find that the film had a lot going on that sometimes distracts from the main overarching flow of the movie.

“The Persian Version” is a comedy drama film written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz. The film follows a young Iranian-American woman Laila (Layla Mohammadi) who is often at odds with her family, in particular her mother. While her father recovers from a heart transplant, Layla clashes with her mother and learns a huge secret about her parents that transforms her point of view about her mother. But will she and her mother be able to reconcile?

This film has many admirable qualities but the one I like the best is seeing the all American family as seen through the eyes of an Iranian-American woman. The film has tons of humor as it revolves around different cultural differences and how Layla interacts with her family. The only daughter with eight brothers, she very much holds her own and the comedy is quirky but funny. The scenes between Layla and her grandmother are particularly funny as she discusses topics Layla doesn’t expect. Little Layla, when the film focuses on the past, is cute but as funny as the older version. The relationship between Layla and her mother is authentic and believable as are the cultural and immigrant experiences. Layla struggles to bridge the gap between her Iranian and American halves and therein lies the story. 

The other aspect that the film tackles is Layla’s mother Shireen’s (Niousha Noor) story. We see Shireen through her daughter’s eye but we also see a woman making her own story, controlling her own destiny despite the challenges she faces as an immigrant and a woman. She battles the odds and provides for her family. That story is dynamic and powerful. The family drama between Shireen and Layla makes for an emotional story and the writing balances the humor well. 

The stand out performances are Layla Mohammadi as adult Layla, Chiara Stella as child Layla and Niousha Noor as Shireen. All three are phenomenal. Lalya Mohammadi is dynamic, sarcastic and hilarious in her antics. Chiara Stella is talented and funny as well, equal to the adult Layla. Niousha Noor is powerful, strong and emotional as Shireen. The dynamic between her and Layla is incredible, both in the moments they argue and when they bond. The strength of their performances carries the film.

What distracts from the story are two factors. One, the story goes back and forth in time, flashing back to Layla’s childhood and there are times when it is very difficult to figure out exactly what is going on in the present. There is also a lot going on with the story. We have both Layla and Shireen’s stories. For one film, that is a lot to stay focused on. While I appreciated it because it gives perspective to Layla’s relationship with her mother and her family, some cautious editing might have made the drama pop more and not drown out the comedic voice of the movie. 

If you like humor about family drama and with a strong mother daughter story, this is a good one to watch even with the amount going on in the film. It is still funny, especially how Layla interacts with her family and her relationship with her grandmother. The emotional dynamic between Layla and Shireen is the heart of this film and both actresses bring powerful performances meant to bring you to tears. The Iranian-American perspective is outstanding and I loved how we got to experience Shireen’s immigrant experience. It is not a perfect film but it is beautiful, authentic and very human.

Rating: 3.5 brothers out of 5


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