Connect with us
The Persian Version
Image: Sundance Film Festival


The Persian Version is a Triumphant Family Tale 

Sundance 2023: The Persian Version

Layla Mohammadi and Niousha Noor star in the story of secrets in a large Persian-American family, a Sundance 2023 premiere 

The Persian Version, the new film from director Maryam Keshavarz — who came to Sundance more than a decade ago with her debut, Circumstance — essentially lays out its thesis statement in the opening minutes, in a voiceover by protagonist Leila (Layla Mohammadi.) 

The film gets off to a really fantastic start. Telling the story of her Persian-American family, she likens her ancestral nation and her adopted one to divorced parents while telling stories of how she, not subject to the military draft, used to smuggle American pop music back to Iran, in a scene that plays like a truer, less-insulting sequel to airport scenes in the third act of Argo

Leila, the one girl in a family with nine brothers, has complicated relationships with her family, which comes to a head when her dad (Bijan Daneshmand) gets a heart transplant, and her large gaggle of brothers returns to their New York/New Jersey orbit. 

Eventually, the film settles into a main story: Leila is a first-generation Iranian-American with a large family who works as a filmmaker and lives a party-filled life. Nominally a lesbian and separated from a former wife, Leila gets pregnant via a one-night stand with a British guy named Maximillian (Tom Byrne), one who — don’t tell Ron DeSantis! — works as a drag queen. Or rather, he’s playing one (Hedwig) in a stage production. (Yes, straight actors, including Taye Diggs, have played the role on Broadway.) 

Pop music is very important to this film, and in addition to the ’80s pop standards, we see Leila and her ex singing the Dire Straits song “Romeo and Juliet,” although I’m guessing they know it from the version by the Indigo Girls, who are also the subject of a Sundance film this year. 

The plot then pivots to the story of Leila’s mother Shireen (Niousha Noor). We learn that Shireen had some type of scandal back in Iran, one which is slowly revealed as he learns more about her backstory- leading up to a shock of recognition once we realize what’s going on. 

 It leads up to an ending that’s highly poignant, even before we get to the Cyndi Lauper singalong at the end. 

And yes, ending a movie with the whole cast having a dance party has gotten especially tiresome of late, and I’m still baffled at what everybody saw in that stupid grocery store dance at the end of White Noise (the song sucked too.) But here, it absolutely works. 

Layla Mohammadi, who plays the lead role, is an absolute star, and Noor, as her mom, isn’t far behind, while Kamand Shafiesabet is outstanding as the teenage version of Shireen. It’s a gorgeously shot picture with beautiful colors throughout. 

I happened to see The Persian Version on the same morning that Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film that debuted at last year’s Sundance, led the Oscar nominations. 

There are key differences, of course, from geography to storytelling form. But The Persian Version is another film about the relationship between an immigrant mother and her first-generation American daughter, in which the daughter is gay, the mother’s feelings are complex, and we learn more about the mother’s complicated story as the film goes on. 

There’s no word yet on distribution for The Persian Version, but this is a beautiful, poignant film that deserves a large audience whenever it arrives.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches


Don West Don West

Remembering Wrestling Sports Broadcaster Don West


The Last of Us Infected The Last of Us Infected

The Last of Us Looks for Love in a Hopeless Place with “Infected”


Hear Me Out Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out Never Finds Its Own Voice


Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope (2023): How the Newest Hypnotic Netflix Toy Stumbles with its Unique Format


Bill Nighy is a Living Marvel in This Kurosawa Remake


Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Top 5 WWE Wrestlers To Win The 2023 Royal Rumble


The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness

The Last of Us Begins with the Bleak, Familiar “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”


Sundance 2023: The Eight Must-See Films at the Festival


WWE Royal Rumble 1992 WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Why the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble Match is Still The Best


maxwell jacob friedman maxwell jacob friedman

MJF and Three Potential First-Time Feuds for 2023 


When It Melts movie review When It Melts movie review

When It Melts Continues an Important Conversation with Unflinching Pathos


Magazine Dreams Review Magazine Dreams Review

Magazine Dreams is a Volcanic Study of A Self-consuming Bodybuilder


Ranking The Chicago Bulls Dynasty Opponents In The ’90s


WWE sale - Vince McMahon WWE sale - Vince McMahon

The Available Options For A Potential Sale Of WWE


They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters

They’re All Alright: Ranking the Best Characters fromThat ’70s Show