‘Two Women’ follows the lives of friends Fereshteh (Niki Karimi) and Roya (Marila Zarei) over a decade. As college students, Roya approaches the academically above average Feresteh for tutoring sessions and their friendship develops rapidly in a lovely montage; paradise, however, never lasts. Feresteh is being stalked by a frighteningly violent young man (there is a thoroughly satisfying scene on a bus where she berates him), the university shuts down, and thanks to her small minded father her once promising future takes a downward turn all too real.
As such ‘Two Women’ should not conveniently be categorized as a mere film about women’s rights; it is so much more and Tahmineh Milani, the writer and director, has done a beautiful job without resorting to male bashing or melodrama: there are decent men and there is no chest beating, hysterical weeping, or long diatribes of ‘woe is me’. Instead, simple acts convey heartbreak such as a mother patting the empty bed of her kidnapped children, and Niki Karimi’s stellar expressions whenever her screen husband insults her in front of her children. In each scene be it back story or present day, the camera lingers just long enough to deliver the intent and then briskly skips on without a single misstep or lag thanks to Mostafa Kherghehpoosh’s excellent editing skills.
‘Two Women’ was released to acclaim in 1999, and ten years later it could be set in Pakistan scene to scene with the added detail of helpless/unhelpful neighbors watching from doorways as desperate women run down the street towards literal and symbolic blind ends. The end reminded me of the adage ‘better late than never’, and why it’s not always true. This is a film which should not be missed.