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NO DATE, NO SIGNATURE gets 6/10 Bury the Living

Directed by Vahid Jalilvand
Starring Amir Aghaee, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Zakieh Behbahani

6/10

The moral implications surrounding circumstance and responsibility are topics explored at great length in Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature, as they were in fellow Iranian filmmaker Asfghar Farhadi’s films such as A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016). Unfortunately, No Date, No Signature is like diet Asghar Farhadi, with far less of an interesting exploration into these themes, held back by overly-ascetic execution and further dulled by very little cinematic prowess.

Opening with a road accident that has Dr Nariman (Amir Aghaee) knock over the bike of Moosa (Navid Mohammadzadeh) along with the rest of his family, Nariman worries about the family’s health, particularly the eight year old son, but an aggravated Moosa claims otherwise and drives home, passing the hospital that Nariman suggested they immediately visit.

The following morning, Nariman discovers the boy had been brought in to his hospital, having died of a horrendous stomach infection, but Nariman can’t shrug off the feeling that he may actually be the one responsible for this young boy’s death. This sets off a number of events, and a number of reiterative conversations, about the guilt that gets passed between this assortment of characters.

The progression of all these events as they stack up atop each other feels so starkly procedural, with Nariman taking on each development of the child’s circumstance with either an obvious anger or a gloomy retreatment. Moosa has much more emotional space to work with, as his own version of guilt, anger, and passing of blame makes him feel like he’s more of the film’s centre, though it’s unfortunate he isn’t the central character.

The very materialistic portrayal of a young boy’s corpse is reminiscent of Son of Saul (2015), though No Date, No Signature keeps the audience at very long arm’s lengths in regards to its emotional impact. Unlike the great filmmakers of cinema that have produced such harrowing tales told in such restrained manners, there doesn’t quite feel like there’s a strong subtext to the going-ons in No Date, No Signature. It presents a story that continues to unearth itself (literally at one point), but it never hits a spiritual high that similar films have hit before.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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