Tuesday 8 December 2020

"No Hard Feelings" (Guardian 07/12/20)

No Hard Feelings ***

Dir: Faraz Shariat. With: Benjamin Radjaipour, Banafshe Hourmazdi, Eidin Jalali, Mashid Shariat. 92 mins. Cert: 18

This year’s winner of the Berlin festival’s Teddy Award for best queer-themed film begins as shuffling character study, then broadens out to resemble Jules and Jim or The Dreamers yanked brusquely into an urgent multicultural present. Its focal point is Parvis (Benjamin Radjaipour), a gay twentysomething German of Iranian descent obliged to assume greater responsibility after community service carries him into a refugee shelter; there he gravitates towards Amon (Eidin Jalili) and Banafshe (Banafshe Hourmazdi), Iranian siblings facing imminent deportation. Any trace of piousness in that set-up is dispelled by an early, frenzied burst of man-on-man facesitting: from the off, it’s a film caught between worlds, juggling Parvis’s casual hook-ups with his growing bond to contemporaries living more precariously yet.

Presented in Academy ratio, with Andrea Arnold-like dreamy interludes, Faraz Shariat’s debut is quietly shrewd about checking its characters’ privilege. Dubbed an ausländer and living at home with uncomprehending parents, Parvis may think he has it bad, but he also has the paperwork allowing him to stay out at night. Set his soured fling with an older Caucasian against a scene in which Banafshe fends off an overreaching caseworker, however, and the condescension and exploitation in play doesn’t appear wildly different. Gradually, that square frame becomes a window onto the European project entire. Sometimes those within it integrate, sometimes they struggle – though Shariat ensures their efforts yield a range of experiences, often as heady as they are chastening.

So naturally does the film fall in step with its young leads – Shariat is only 26 himself – that it can feel callow in places. There’s a lot of aimless hanging out through the first half, and the director can’t resist the abiding visual cliché of Teddy contenders: the overhead shot of photogenic players sprawled on their backs, heads resting in or near one another’s laps. Yet those players are strong, flicking eloquently and revealingly between German and Farsi, and the care taken to hear out Parvis’s parents – not hardliners, but gentle souls (played by the director’s own folks) whose hard work has afforded their offspring the opportunity to slope around – speaks to promising reserves of directorial curiosity and generosity. 

No Hard Feelings is now available to rent via Prime Video.

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