VIFF 2021: Iranian drama Bone Marrow depicts parents facing impossible decisions to save son's life

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      Bone Marrow

      Directed by Hamid Reza Ghorbani. Starring Parinaz Izadyar and Babak Hamidian. In Farsi, with English subtitles. 

      Devoted parents Bahar (Parinaz Izadyar) and Hossein (Babak Hamidian) are willing to do anything to save the life of their child Payam, who is dying of leukemia.

      When a possible cure arises as an option—it’s a longshot involving Bahar’s ex-husband Majid (Javad Ezati) who is facing an upcoming execution—it’s not their unflinching commitment to their child that’s in question but a matter of how fast they can overcome the gauntlet of obstacles that arise in their path; how they can address the numerous secrets that rise to the surface; and, more importantly, how much of the consequences of their weighty sacrifices can they withstand.

      With restraint in sentimentality, this engrossing drama effectively conveys the toll upon the parents, both in story and by the every-person performances delivered by Izadyar and Hamidian.

      Like many contemporary Iranian films, screenwriter Ali Zarnegar and director Hamid Reza Ghorbani take a seemingly simple story concept and add ever-evolving layers that transform it into a situation rife with endless emotional complexities and moral questions. In fact, a subplot involving Majid and his death sentence, develops to the point of having the potential to almost overtake the main story. 

      Yet even as the ever-deepening stakes threaten to overwhelm the narrative, Ghorbani manages to retain control with a humane focus on what happens when loved ones are forced to make impossible decisions.

      Bone Marrow screens at the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival at the Kay Meek Arts Centre on October 6 and 9, and at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on October 11.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.