Always Shine is a psychological thriller by director Sophia Takal. In many ways it is an homage to the classics of the genre, such as works by Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. However, it’s also an interesting commentary upon the perception of women in modern society. Sophia Takal conducted a Q&A session after the screening via Skype, and she talked about how much of the film was inspired by her own difficulty with not living up to what she perceives that society expects of her as a women, of not living up to the feminine ideal. Fittingly, both lead actresses give incredibly strong performances, with Beth and Anna respectively embodying a feminine ideal and a more aggressive female personality.
Although I can’t say that it is an amazing thriller movie, Always Shine is an excellent commentary on gender roles and expectations. You may be disappointed if you go into hoping for Hitchcock or Lynch, but if you want an intelligent social commentary than you’re in the right place.
Under the Shadow (زیر سایه)
Under the Shadow is a horror movie created by Iranian director Babak Anvari. In many ways, my thought about this film are quite similar to that of Always Shine; Under the Shadow is not a great horror movie. Most of its frights come from cheap (albeit effective) jump scares, nothing you haven’t seen in every other horror movie. But it is very interesting in the social and political issues it examines, including the role of women in Iranian society, criticisms of the Iranian government, and the subtle, creeping terror of war which goes beyond soldiers and bombs.
If you’re looking for an awesome horror movie, than maybe look for something else. But if you want an interesting social commentary featuring a nation which we so rarely see films from here in the United States, than Under the Shadow is the film for you.