Farzaneh (Taraneh Alidoosti) is a driving instructor. During a lesson where she tries to teach someone who is completely ignorant and careless about basic driving rules, she sees something unusual far away outside the car window. From a distance, she can see her husband, Jalal (Navid Mohammadzadeh), getting on a bus. She decides to leave her car to investigate quickly and jumps onto the same bus while keeping her distance. When Jalal hops off, she follows him until he walks into a building where people acknowledge him as if they know him. From where Farzaneh is observing from a safe distance, she can see Jalal through a window, and it’s evident that he is with another woman.
Confused, angry, and baffled by what she witnessed, she confronts Jalal about the situation. However, Jalal reveals that whoever she saw wasn’t him, insisting it was someone else who just looked like him. Jalal believes Farzaneh’s strange new claims are due to her being pregnant and off her medication. He can’t explain the situation to his wife; instead, he insists on his whereabouts at the time and how it would have been impossible for him to be elsewhere simultaneously. Thanks to a bank statement, Jalal soon proves to Farzaneh that he was, in fact, in a completely different town around the time she saw him. No matter what, Farzaneh will not let the situation go and continues to investigate further, along with help from her father-in-law. Soon, Farzaneh will make a strange, unexplainable, yet fascinating discovery.
Subtraction is a thriller and drama directed by Mani Haghighi, whose past work includes Pig (2018). The film’s setup is beautiful and presents a strange mystery: did Farzaneh see her husband from afar, and who is telling the truth? To my surprise, the film explains it all in the second act, taking a solid step forward in the story and direction. In the third act, the odd mystery transforms into a drama film as characters ask various questions about their reality and themselves. The atmosphere created throughout is impressive, and elements like the continuous rain work with a mysterious, dramatic and playful soundtrack by Ramin Kousha.
Subtraction is undoubtedly slow with its pace, and the runtime is felt here. For the most part, the storyline held my interest enough to make me want to know the conclusions. With its mystery and plot outline, the first act is easily the strongest. Sadly, the second act is prolonged, and I found some elements in the story slightly complicated and complex before leading to familiar outcomes. I found actress Taraneh Alidoosti as Farzaneh to be the strongest element of the film and she successfully brought a character to life that was compelling and confused with various emotions. Navid Mohammadzadeh felt more wooden for the most part and lacked emotion for a good portion of the film.
Overall, Subtraction outlines an unexplainable, engaging and complex mystery for audiences. The pacing was a challenge, particularly in the second act, making this film feel more like a slow-burning film headed towards a familiar outcome than a mystery. The visuals and soundtrack create a terrific atmosphere, feeling dark and gloomy, which suits the situation our leading characters find themselves in. Credit goes to actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who delivered a substantial performance. It’s an exciting thriller with great moments of drama, but it’s nothing massively groundbreaking regarding its conclusions, character choices, and significant reveals.
Subtraction (2022) will be available in Australian Cinemas starting February 29th!