‘Welcome to the land of heartbreak and tractors,’ says a 55-year-old Turkmen musician (Khajeh Araz Dordi) in Iranian-born writer-director and London Film School alumnus Babak Jalali’s low-key feature debut. Jalali’s film traces days in the life of a quartet of ‘longing, waiting and remembering’ men living half-paced lives in the northern Iranian steppes. Slow-witted Hassan (Abolfazl Karimi) feeds his faithful donkey newsprint and listens to Françoise Hardy on his cassette player; his uncle Kazem spends a lot of time selling nothing in a clothes shop; Alam dreams of escape as he teaches himself English on his shifts at a farm; The Minstrel – ‘has anybody died, yet?’ – waits for funerals as a Tehran photographer snaps clichéd portraits of him for a magazine. Leaning to the droll side of comic, Jalali matches his pacing and tone to the hazy languor of an inconsequential midsummer, using a likeable non-pro cast, alternating travelling and formalised camera positions and the muted chords of composer Noaz Deshe. As a portrait of a land of unfulfilled promise, this is emotionally contained, a little limited but sympathetically observant and seductively shot.