Friday 17 May 2024

Movie Review: Not Without My Daughter (1991)

Genre: Drama Thriller  
Director: Brian Gilbert  
Starring: Sally Field, Alfred Molina  
Running Time: 116 minutes  

Synopsis: In 1984, American Betty Mahmoody (Sally Field) is living in Michigan with her Iranian-born husband Moody (Alfred Molina) and their young daughter Mahtob. Although Betty feels Iran is unsafe, Moody is desperate to visit his relatives and they embark on a two week trip. They find Moody's family consumed by zealotry, but Moody anyway announces his intentions to stay permanently in Iran, effectively abducting his wife and daughter. Betty desperately seeks to flee the clutches of her increasingly fanatical husband, but insists on not leaving her daughter behind.

What Works Well: Based on actual events as chronicled in Betty Mahmoody's book, this is a tense real-life thriller driven by fervor, a version of kidnapping, and a cacophonic culture clash. Director Brian Gilbert recreates the chaos of street-level Tehran as a fully animated and disorienting milieu, and Sally Field embraces the challenge of portraying a woman discovering inner strength after her life is stolen. Equally effective, Alfred Molina embarks on a brooding descent into cultural backwardness. 

What Does Not Work As Well: The running time could have been trimmed or rebalanced to avoid repetitive notes within Betty's ordeal. Almost all the secondary Iranian characters are wooden cut-outs: neither the angry extremists nor the kind helpers are defined or justified in any meaningful way.

Conclusion: Prisons without bars may be the most difficult to escape from.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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