Here’s a better alternative to “Look into a child’s eyes to experience the joy of innocence” and suchlike clichés. Where is The Friend’s Home is like visual poetry, recited by Ahmed, the protagonist about his adventures to a neighbouring village. More than coaxing you to watch the film because it’ll be one of the best you’d have seen, it’s more a small part of innocence that you should revisit. You might be able to retain it for a couple of hours after the film.
If you check your inbox from the early 2000s, you would definitely find one of those cheesy, forwarded emails that gives you a pictorial list of the most precious things on earth. You know, the smell of rain, the dewdrop on a rose and yes ofcourse, a child’s innocence. Before you cringe at the thought of it, you should know that Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s Where is The Friend’s Home will break that cringe and make you fall in love with the concept of innocence all over again.
Where is The Friend’s Home is set in rural Iran, and tells us a simple story of a small boy who travels all the way to another village to return his friend’s notebook. We are introduced to the atrocities of small-town education that relies on it’s strict discipline, sort reminiscent of Truffaut’s 400 Blows.
We walk through our protagonist Ahmed’s life, to find that at the end of a hard day at school, he happened to bring his friend’s notebook home. Well aware of the consequences of not finishing your homework in your notebook, Ahmed decides to visit the neighbouring village to return his notebook. Only, he doesn’t know the way. But that doesn’t stop Ahmed; his empathy towards his friends pulls him beyond selfish logic and we follow him on his journey to the neighbouring village.
The picture of Where is The Friend’s Home is stunning, in a simplistic way. While we follow Ahmed, we walk with him through unknown zig-zag roads, amidst the rural landscape of Iran. Much like most Iranian films, we venture on a poetic, visual journey coupled with a middle-eastern stringed background score and a slow-paced rhythmic movement towards the friend’s home.
By the end of the journey, you feel you know Ahmed much more than his parents of the elders, like you and Ahmed share a secret bond, of the pleasures of expedition you got to accompany him on. So much so, that the 83 minutes whiz by even though most of the film is shot on real time. Ahmed and the elders in a village have the conventional conflict in their ideologies. We see a more experimental, innocent yet observant viewpoint of Ahmed juxtaposed with the traditional values of his mother or his grandfather. But you don’t have to make a choice. You’re never made to leave Ahmed’s side.
The DVD of Where is The Friend’s Home has no special features but it comes in a pack of three – The Koker Trilogy, which also includes And Life Goes On and Through The Olive Trees. All three are based in the village Koker, and surround the same characters. Yet with Where is The Friend’s Home you won’t feel like you watched a film. You’ll have transported yourself on Ahmed’s shoulder for 83 mins, walking and contemplating and absorbing every bit of his experience.
I would ask you to explore the child-like innocence in you with this film, or realize the beauty of a simple story but as the cliché goes, the film offers you much more. It’s like you’ve been made to close your eyes and visualize a story being played out as a young Iranian boy narrates it to you. How you chose to visualize Where is The Friend’s Home becomes your viewing experience of the film. It’s really that beautifully simple.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
None required. But watch the film as a family nonetheless