The Child and the Soldier | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Child and the Soldier 

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This road movie by Iranian director Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi charts the blossoming friendship between a conscript soldier (Mehdi Lofti) and the 14-year-old delinquent he's ordered to take back to Tehran (sour-faced Rouhollah Hosseini) while painting an affectionate portrait of ordinary Iranians in the hinterland. The teen, detained at an army outpost after escaping a juvenile prison in Tehran, was arrested for stealing a necklace, though he claims he bought it for his mother, whom he hasn't seen in over two years. Often handcuffed together, he and the soldier encounter an assortment of characters during their journey, each person bestowing kindness on the pair while counseling the boy to reform his ways. The material might easily have been spoiled by sentimentality or preachiness, but Mir-Karimi's direction is discreet, wise, and leisurely, even providing time out for a folk song or two. He presents the boy's innocence and his fate with considerable ambiguity and underplays his climactic act of redemption, which may take viewers some time to grasp. The stunning landscape of northern Iran, with its craggy mountains, lush valleys, and patches of desert, is an added treat. 90 min. Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson in Chicago, Saturday, October 21, 6:00, and Sunday, October 22, 5:00, 312-443-3737.

--Ted Shen

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