"this is an impressive and thought-provoking film"

Ever since Travis Bickle took us on a tour through the metaphorical sewer of New York in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 seminal masterpiece Taxi Driver, the idea of a silent observer viewing life outside the vehicle they’re driving has been a fascinating tool for filmmakers. We’ve seen it in thrillers such as Michael Mann’s Collateral and more recently in Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran, and now artist Mitra Tabrizian has utilised it for her impressive film debut Gholam.

Set in London in 2011, the plot follows Gholam (Shahab Hosseini) who drives a minicab by night and works as a mechanic by day. He lives in a run-down bedsit, eats in his uncle’s café and does little more than exist. However, he becomes pulled into conflicts that slowly reveal elements of his past.

Central to the film is the performance of Hosseini who will be no stranger to those who have enjoyed the work of Asghar Farhadi over the past few years (one of most fascinating directors currently working in film). As Gholam, Hosseini says little with words but speaks through repressed emotion etched onto his face. He does not suffer fools gladly and can handle himself in a fight, but equally shows a caring side to his character in aiding an elderly woman whose path crosses his. He creates a fascinating character, who sees reflections of himself in those around him and is keen to change the subject when his personal history suggests it might emerge.

Meanwhile, Tabrizian examines elements of London exposing it as both an affluent European city and a place of much poverty, all the while investigating elements of the criminal underworld alongside striving for a community spirit that Gholam may well be seeking, potentially in vein.

Admittedly some of the acting from minor supporting players falls a little flat while Tabrizian’s painting in subtle brushstrokes gives the film an understated and slightly slow feel on occasion.

These are minor points though, for this is an impressive and thought-provoking film. It makes observations and asks questions about society and elements of immigration, questions that don’t have easy answers leading up to a sad ending that positively drips with irony. Already an award-winning photographer, this evidence suggests great things for Tabrizian in the moving image realm as well.