For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Youth-Led Movies, here’s a review of Where is the Friend’s House? (1987) by David of Blueprint Review.
Thanks again to Sally of 18 Cinema Lane for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Bubbawheat of Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights and we will be reviewing our favorite Animated Comic Book/Strip Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Feb by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Bubbawheat!
Let’s see what David thought of this movie:
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Screenplay: Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Babek Ahmed Poor, Ahmed Ahmed Poor, Khodabakhsh Defaei
Running Time: 83min
Where is the Friend’s House? is a simple tale of a young boy, Ahmed (Babek Ahmed Poor), who accidentally takes his friend Mohamed’s (Ahmed Ahmed Poor, the other’s brother in real life) copybook home with him from school. Mohamed was scolded by his teacher earlier that day and threatened with expulsion if he didn’t do his homework in his copybook again, so Ahmed is desperate to get the book back to him. However, Ahmed’s mum doesn’t want him to go wandering off and the boy doesn’t know where Mohamed lives anyway. Nevertheless, the determined Ahmed rushes off on his ‘mission’ when his mum asks him to get some bread from the bakery. He runs around Koker (the trilogy title comes from this location where all three films are set) and the neighbouring villages, asking if anyone knows where Mohamed lives, allowing the viewers to explore the area and find out more about the characters living there.
This is far from the dialogue-heavy intellectualism of Certified Copy, so I was surprised and delighted by Where is the Friend’s House? I’m a huge fan of stripped back, economic storytelling like this that keeps the narrative simple so you have time to mull over and appreciate the film and its themes. The key theme being explored here, for me, was how little adults truly listen to and respect the feelings of children. From the strict school teacher, to the mother refusing to let Ahmed steer away from his usual routines, to the grandfather who laments the ‘good old days’ when children were beaten into doing as they’re told, the film is filled with unknowingly cruel adults who aren’t taking the time to listen to Ahmed’s predicament and realise his returning the book is actually quite important. At first I thought this might be an allegorical criticism of strict Iranian law, but none of the many special features included back this up, so perhaps the surface criticism of adults and rules in general are the point entirely.
Away from its thematic elements, the film is beautifully made. It has a naturalistic, no-frills style, yet shots are carefully composed and subtly attractive. The story is often told visually with a great use of visual cues. A prime example of this is the repeated use of brown corduroys. Our attention is drawn to these trousers worn by Mohamed after he falls over and Ahmed helps him, then later they reappear as clues for Ahmed whilst he tries to track down his friend. We see them hanging on a washing line, so he goes to investigate and later they’re used in an amusing visual gag where tension is drawn out when we see a child wearing brown corduroys but his face keeps getting obscured by things, such as a door he’s carrying to begin with.
The performances are excellent too. Kiarostami uses ‘non-actors’ in all the roles here and he doesn’t hide slight moments where they look a little uncomfortable in front of the camera (I think I spotted someone glancing at it once or twice too), but there’s a wonderful naturalism to their actions and reactions. Kiarostami reportedly used tricks to elicit some of these, such as tearing up a picture Ahmed Ahmed Poor liked to make him cry during the first school scene. It may seem a little cruel but, seeing and hearing from the director in the features, you get the sense he cares for the local people he uses in his films and wouldn’t do anything to seriously harm them like some directors might (Kubrick springs to mind).
Where is the Friend’s House? is the most straight forward film in the trilogy (which you’ll learn as you read on) but it’s the easiest to fall in love with. Beautifully simple but highly effective, it’s an enjoyable, occasionally touching little tale with a good point to make about our treatment of children.