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‘The Persian Version’ Movie Review [Sundance 2023]: A Heart-Felt Mother-Daughter Story Through Time



The Persian Version is a non-linear narrative that hops through time to enrich its characters and explore their individual hardships. Several films at the Sundance Film Festival 2023 aimed for a large scope, such as Cassandro. However, both films ultimately come to mixed results with their ability to craft a well-edited narrative. Writer/director Maryam Keshavarz’s comedy-drama is bursting with life, even though its storytelling falls all over itself.

‘The Persian Version’ chronicles a complicated mother-daughter relationship

'The Persian Version' Layla Mohammadi as Leila and Niousha Noor as Shireen dancing while wearing dresses
L-R: Layla Mohammadi as Leila and Niousha Noor as Shireen | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Iranian-American Leila (Layla Mohammadi) wrestles with her two cultures that are constantly at odds with one another. Nevertheless, she tries to find the balance between the two, embracing them both equally, even though she quickly rejects the labels that each culture wishes to place upon her.

Leila joins her family at a reunion in New York City when her father needs a heart transplant. She attempts to hold her Iranian and American lives separate, keeping her family members at an arm’s length. However, Leila is harboring a big secret from them that is about to come out. Little does she realize, she has more in common with her mother, Shireen (Kaleidoscope‘s Niousha Noor), than she ever thought.

Celebrating triumphant women overcoming hardship from one generation to the next

The Persian Version tells the complicated story between a mother and her daughter, as Shireen refuses to accept the person that Leila is. Despite their familial connection, she threw her daughter out of the house on Thanksgiving because she arrived with her wife. Leila simply wants to be herself, but she’s unable to do so around them. Now a divorced woman, she has sex with a Broadway singer/actor named Maximillian (The Crown actor Tom Byrne) at a Halloween party after thinking that he’s a drag queen. Her life is then spent into a spiral.

Keshavarz’s screenplay revolves around the notion of identity, as Leila’s culture clash sends her into a crisis. She doesn’t feel entirely accepted in either one, moving from a country filled with so many politics to one that puts its faith in science. Leila abandoned both to put her belief in art as an indie filmmaker, which all started at a younger age. She always loved Western pop culture, even though Iran would never allow it.

Shireen is described as “old world,” while Leila calls herself “new world.” There’s a divide between the two that informs their volatile relationship, even though they love one another deep down. However, the more that Keshavarz explores the background of Shireen’s story, the greater understanding Leila and the audience have for her journey. Both ends of this relationship suffer from misunderstanding, as she realizes that she isn’t so different from her mother after all.

‘The Persian Version’ is heartfelt and genuine

Keshavarz’s screenplay has a quirky edge to it in both its comedic leanings, as well as its narrative techniques. Dialogue breaks the fourth wall, directly addressing the audience in addition to a voice over, which feels overwhelming in combination. The Persian Version is a non-linear story that weaves through time to provide the full breadth of the characters, actually becoming more compelling in telling Shireen’s past than Leila’s present.


At its heart, Keshavarz is making a film about mothers and daughters. They don’t always get along, but there’s a special bond beneath all of the nuance that comes from individuality. The final product is a vibrant and enjoyable comedy-drama that has real meaning behind the characters and their relationships.

The Persian Version is a touching story about reclaiming your truth and having ownership of it, along with a loving hint of the peculiar. It excels when it isn’t trying so hard to be quirky with its storytelling techniques, allowing the film to be naturally funny and inherently dramatic. Keshavarz finds the right emotional beats in the past, but they’re buried in odd storytelling choices.

Source: Cheat Sheet

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