Bluntly presented and serious-minded, this Iranian drama follows the plight of Afrooz (Baran Kosari), captain of Iran’s women’s futsal team, who finds she’s been banned from leaving the country by her estranged husband Yaser (Amir Jadidi) – believe it or not, his legal right as a married man in Iran. With it, director Soheil Beiraghi unapologetically confronts a society which places women’s rights in the hands of men. With Kosari a steely presence at its heart, ‘Permission’ asks us share in Afrooz’s growing anger and claustrophobia as she finds herself boxed in, metaphorically and literally (a lot of the film takes place in cars), wherever she turns.
Afrooz’s predicament wins little sympathy from her coach, who is more concerned that the team’s hijabs don’t slip on court, so she turns to a self-promoting activist lawyer who initially suggests seduction and a social-media campaign ahead of legal action. Her husband’s preferred option is clear. The presenter of a queasily titled TV programme ‘Good Old Days’, he assumes his unctuous brand of charm can put their year-long estrangement to bed in a very literal sense.
The film’s cool, zinc-y tones are the perfect match for Yaser’s skin-crawling slickness, as well as an impersonal legal system which first traps Afrooz, then ties her in knots. The (unseen) judge, meanwhile, is merely confused by the whole scenario, particularly by Yaser who neither wants to keep his wife nor let her go. ‘Permission’ isn’t an endearing experience – you won’t necessarily warm to any of the characters – but it makes its point effectively.