The Salesman

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Salesman Movie Poster Image
Oscar-winning Iranian film has violence, some language.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 125 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Bad things seem to just randomly happen here, and they result more in bad feelings than in lessons learned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters react in very poor ways to stressful, awful situations. Though they have regrets, it's not clear what they've learned, if anything.

Violence

A woman is attacked off screen. Blood is shown on the floor, and there are bloody wounds on her face. (It's suggested that the victim was naked, in the shower, but rape isn't mentioned.) Bloody foot wound. A building threatens to collapse with families inside. A character has a heart attack. A character dies.

Sex

A woman (whom viewers never see) is described as "promiscuous," "a woman of acquaintances," and "lived a wild life."

Language

Uses of "bastard," "son of a bitch," "Goddamn," and "jerk" (in subtitles).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Salesman, from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017. It includes mature subject matter, including an off-screen attack on a woman. Blood is shown on the floor, and the woman's bruised, bloodied face is shown. It's said that she had been naked in the shower, but rape isn't mentioned. A man is also locked up against his will, a character has a heart attack, and a character dies. A building starts collapsing, threatening the families who live inside. An unseen female character is described as "promiscuous," "a woman of acquaintances," and having "lived a wild life." Strong language, in English subtitles, includes uses of "goddamn," "son of a bitch," and "bastard."

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What's the story?

In THE SALESMAN, husband and wife Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are co-starring in a production of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. Meanwhile, their apartment building starts to collapse, and they're forced to evacuate. They hastily move into a new place -- and one evening Emad returns home to find the couple's home empty and blood in the shower. It turns out that an intruder came inside thinking he'd find the apartment's former tenant, who's described as a promiscuous woman. But instead he found and attacked Rana. Emad discovers that the intruder left behind a pickup truck, and he uses it to track the attacker down. The attacker's identity is something of a surprise, but Rana's increasingly withdrawn suffering -- and Emad's increasing frustration -- causes him to make a decision he could later regret.

Is it any good?

Two-time Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) returns with another mature familial drama; though it doesn't quite rank with his best, it may still satisfy savvy viewers. Winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, The Salesman has several interesting motifs, including its use of Death of a Salesman and the images of the crumbling apartment building. But the movie doesn't really keep up with these motifs -- and, as it goes on, it becomes clear that Emad is a truly awful character, impatient, rash, and flat-out mean. It's difficult to stick with him.

In the end, the movie feels more like a soap opera than anything. Regardless, Farhadi conjures some striking, memorable visuals, and his understanding and treatment of marriage is still above reproach; his characters feel alive and real. Best of all, he's arguably the most universal director Iran has ever produced, appealing to a wider Western audience than anyone before him -- and he manages to make his characters' concerns relatable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Salesman's violence. What's shown and not shown? How does that affect its impact? How is psychological violence depicted? What is the difference between that and the more physical form?

  • What is the movie's attitude toward sex and the unseen "promiscuous" woman? How does that compare to what you might see in a mainstream American movie?

  • Does the movie make you want to read/see Death of a Salesman? How do the themes of the play fit (or not fit) into the story of the movie?

  • What other Iranian movies have you seen? How does this one compare to them? How does it compare to American movies?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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