“Tehran : City of Love”
Three Lonely Characters
Ali Jaberansari’s “Tehran: City of Love” is about three disenchanted and gloomy people with low aspirations are low. Hessam Fezli (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) is a lonely champion body builder who has won three championships. He works in a gym as a physical trainer for ordinary guys and old men. He gets hired for a film with shoot is some time in the future.
A handsome young bodybuilder, Arshia (Amir Reza Alizadeh), who is disenchanted with his previous trainer, comes to Hessam to tentatively train him for a competition. This is a dream come true for Hessam, who isn’t interested in women. We know that because he gives the brush off to Mina Shams (Forough Ghajabagli), the overweight receptionist at a beauty studio where he goes to get botoxed. When the body builder seems contented with Hessam, Hessam resigns from the film, breaking his contract, to devote himself wholeheartedly to the young man.
Mina (who is obsessed with ice cream) makes suggestive calls to men on a secret cell phone for only that purpose. She sets up dates using fake pictures in this game of hopelessness that she plays. She attends a life class proposed to her by Niloufar (Behnaz Jafari). Reza who is already a student in the class takes an interest in Mina, inviting her out, not caring that she’s overweight.
On one of their dates, Reza tells Mina that he is married with a young kid. He’s getting divorced, but it is taking a long time. So he’s not really as available as he had let her assume for a while.
Meanwhile, Hessam seems to always be down even when he’s standing behind his handsome young body builder, guiding his arms in a hard workout. He never cracks a smile. Mina does smile and looks pretty when she’s with Reza, and Vahid gets lively when he’s performing at the parties. Maybe the young aspiring champion body builder feels uneasy with Hessam’s attentions, especially after he’s invited to Hessam’s father’s house. The young body builder tells Hessam a lie to get out of their relationship, claiming that his travel schedule for work just doesn’t allow him time to train and he must give up the idea of the competition (which isn’t true).
The third gloomy person is Vahid (Mehdi Saki) who works as a singer at religious funerals in a mosque. He’s estranged from his fiancée which doesn’t seem to upset him beyond having to break the news to his religious parents. His best friend decides the way out of his depression is to start singing happy songs and gets him booked as wedding singer instead.
So Hessam, Mina, and Vahid wind up more or less back where they started. Director Jaberansari finds his perfect final image in Mina with the giant teddy bear that Reza sent her to say he was sorry, Vahid, and Hessam, all sit far apart, alone together, on an empty bus riding home.
The hopelessness and loneliness of some urban lives is painful to watch but it seems to reflect modern Iranian urban culture, with its severe restrictions on fun.