Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts wrote, directed & stars in this enigmatic character piece which (unknowingly?) hides a tough little thriller under its surface, lacking only a final ‘story beat’ to make the switch. Pitts plays a recently released prisoner trying to move to the day shift at his job so he can spend more time with his wife & daughter. And while we never do find out just what he had been sent to prison for (a political crime?; petty theft?; a violent act?), as the film progresses, we find almost everything similarly undefined. Pitts, trying for universality thru abstraction, leaves his drama unpinned to anything. In some ways, we’re not so far from the film world of Finnish master Ari Kaurismäki, though without his distinctive deadpan humor. Aki's stories twist themselves into such agreeable fables that you can forget how many of his tall tales open with personal tragedies.* Pitts uses similarly sparse dialogue & an equally refined compositional touch to chart a fatalistic course, but one that moves ever deeper into shallower philosophical waters. Act One plunges Pitts' character into a tragic personal loss that leads on to the nearly random shootings of Act Two before a complicated chase in Act Three, technically clean as a whistle, brings out a rough sort of justice thru a pair of contrasting, comically scary cops. This last act, by far the most interesting, finds a black comic specificity that locates the universality Pitts must have been after all along. Belatedly, you see the bleakly comic No-Way-Out tragedy this film might have been. But . . . still missing that final story beat.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Kaurismäki’s ARIEL/’88, or just about anything Kaurismäki you choose.