Like Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner, The Skier launches headlong into the vivid and colourful world of a determined child on a critical mission. Similarities between the two Middle East-set films end there though; Julie’s (Amir Reza Faramarzi) world is a lot safer and more stable than Parvana’s.
It’s refreshing to see a film set in the Middle East that isn’t focused on war or conflict, yet The Skier doesn’t lack stakes. Julie’s desire to save the goat and his determination to win his ski race are all-consuming. As a result, The Skier is often a charming and enjoyable ride led by the infectious enthusiasm and sincerity of its child protagonist and actors.
Fereidoun Najafi’s screenplay packs an impressively complex and twisting plot into a short runtime, though this can also be the film’s downfall. The repetitious chopping and changing sometimes lapses from pacy to plain confusing, and dramatic tension is often reduced to simply a lot of shrill shouting from the lead.
One aspect of The Skier that never stumbles, however, is the cinematography and colour palette. Much of Julie’s journey is through snow-covered mountains, yet Director of Photography Mahmoud A. Farah never wavers in commitment to a beautiful, striking contrast between the bright whiteness of the snow and Iran’s clear blue skies and characteristic sand-toned buildings.
The Skier excels in portraying the life and culture of the mountainous villages it depicts; children are independent and everyone knows each other. Though this small-scale canvas is Najafi’s priority, he still makes room for insightful commentary on the gender dynamics of Iranian society, and how profoundly these infiltrate the psyches of children even as young as Julie.
This gentle road movie contains joyful flashes of brilliance. With a few kinks ironed out of both script and performance, it could have really soared.
CAST: Ava Daroit, Amir Reza Faramarzi
DIRECTOR: Fereidoun Najafi
WRITER: Fereidoun Najafi
SYNOPSIS: A mountain goat that has taken shelter in a small village is to be sacrificed for a traditional ceremony, but a small boy named Julie sets out to save his friend.