Fireworks Wednesday

Screenshot from "Fireworks Wednesday" of actress Hedye Tehrani peering behind a doorway

Asghar Farhadi has established himself as the premier dramaturgist of contemporary Iranian Cinema. His low-key melodramas subtly expose the socioeconomic rifts existing within major metropolitan areas through symbolic studies of fractured and disintegrating families. His third feature, Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbe Suri), has long been overshadowed by his international hits A Separation (Jodai-e Nader az Simin) and The Salesman (Forusande). If tragic violence doesn’t erupt as forcefully here, it nevertheless simmers with Farhadi’s masterful command of unabated tension.

A still image from "Fireworks Wednesday" featuring actress Taraneh Alidoosti seated and staring off-camera with her reflection in a window behind her
Taraneh Alidoosti

The film’s tale of Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young woman employed as a cleaning lady by a middle-class housewife named Mojdeh Samii (Hedye Tehrani) is charged with several preoccupations Farhadi has explored in his filmography. As Mojdeh suspects her husband Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) of having an affair with a neighboring beautician (Pantea Bahram) in their building, the film’s narrative carefully unfolds in elliptical yet precise detail. Previously withheld information casually emerges with starkly brutal clarity, aligning the viewer with Rouhi as she becomes an active agent in the Samdii family’s volatile implosion.

DP Hossein Jafarian’s extended tracking shots effortlessly assist Farhadi’s superb cast in their naturalistic performances, even while Farhadi’s framing indicates some of the latent themes of social contracts like marriage which entrap the characters. Those figures, like in Farhadi’s later work, possess our empathy, especially when they thrust themselves into undignified positions to preserve their very dignity. The necessity of subterfuge within Tehran’s social and gendered hierarchy culminate in the final moments with a quiet sorrow rather than the devastating tragedy of Farhadi’s subsequent films. Yet Fireworks Wednesday is not merely some thematic dress rehearsal. It’s a confident statement from an artist in full command of his power to unsettle and humanize in equal measure.