Starring Ardalan Esmaili. In Danish, English, and Farsi, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
Displaced people take many kinds of paths, but the one danced along by one desperate man in The Charmer is decidedly different from what we usually see in movies.
The seductive smoothie here is Esmail, a young Iranian played by Denmark-based Ardalan Esmaili, who resembles a more Mediterranean George Clooney. Esmail has been in Copenhagen for two years, and his visitor’s visa is about to run out. That’s why he spends most evenings in his best and only suit at a high-class bar frequented by the kind of blondish singles who just might be able to help him change his status.
His attempts so far have been erotically successful, but have not paid off bureaucratically or morally, as we see (but don’t yet understand) in the otherwise gentle-toned film’s shocking first scene. His missteps will eventually come back to haunt him, but for now, the hunt is on. One night, he meets a likely Danish lass, but is thrown off by her Farsi-speaking pal, who’s onto his game from the start.
New York–born Soho Rezanejad, an electro-pop artist now living in Copenhagen, makes a strong impression as Sara, drawn to Esmail despite her misgivings. She still lives with her mother (Susan Taslimi), a highly respected Iranian expat. Despite his low standing as a day labourer, the mom takes a shine to Esmail, creating more conflicts for the rebellious Sara. The situation also allows writer-director Milad Alami, working from the script he wrote with Ingeborg Topsøe, to explore different strata within immigrant communities, and to sketch out varying attitudes
toward starting over in a new land.
The moodily shot tale is full of surprising turns and clever insights. But Esmail is such a taciturn character it’s often hard to read his motivations, let alone divine what he’s leaving behind. There are some coincidences that feel forced, as well. But The Charmer mostly lives up to its title.