Under the Shadow. 2016. UK/Jordan/Qatar. Directed by Babak Anvari. In Farsi; English subtitles. 84 min.
It’s eight years into the Iran-Iraq War, but the troubles of a wife and mother in Tehran have only just begun. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is thwarted in her attempts to return to medical school because of past political activities. And as Iraqi bombs close in, her husband is sent off to serve in the military, neighbors begin to flee, and she is left alone with her young daughter, Dorsa, who refuses to be separated from her favorite doll. At first, Dorsa’s tantrums seem to simply be the complaints of a cranky child. But soon she’s in conversation with an invisible woman—no imaginary friend, this one—and the cracks in the walls and ceilings of their apartment could just be the result of something more than air raids. Though Shideh is a woman of science, she begins to suspect that a malevolent spirit, a djinn, is stalking them. A political horror story that rises up from the rubble of war, Babak Anvari’s feature debut boasts a terrific performance by Rashidi as a woman with more than one war going on in her home and in her head, who must save her daughter from dangers both physical and supernatural.