The empty lives of the middle class is a favorite theme in Iranian films, and when they get together in groups, emotional explosions start happening along moral fault lines. Hat Trick (Hattrick) is a well-crafted addition to the genre, and its ensemble cast makes a suspenseful quartet. Though far from the complexity of a film like Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly, whose group dynamics it recalls, Ramtin Lavafi’s latest creates plenty of nervous tension on its own. It is the third feature from the filmmaker, whose debut, Be Calm and Count to Seven, won a Tiger Award in Rotterdam and other international prizes. Hat Trick is also well-worth a look by festivals.
The story begins at a loud party in a fancy house. Unnamed tension flares between a good-looking couple, Farzad (Amir Jadidi) and his wife, Lida (Parinaz Izadyar). When he slips outside to take a phone call, she watches him anxiously through a picture window, trying to listen in. Seeing her distress, their friend Keivan (Saber Abar) tells her not to worry, he’ll talk to Farzad.
A taut four-character drama.
Keivan is in the company of a young woman (Mahour Alvand) who he has been seeing since he broke up with his last girlfriend. Their relationship is starting to jell, but it isn’t firm yet and there are secrets they keep from each other. The two couples leave together. Farzad is driving. The dialogue is tense and the sense of impending doom grows when Lida leans way out the window to take pictures.
In a moment of distraction, Farzad hits something on the road. He pulls over at the others’ insistence, but no one wants to get out and see what they ran over. Finally, Lida takes the initiative and thinks she sees a man with a club standing over something. This is even more frightening, and they agree to go somewhere quiet to think things through and decide what to do.
The long last act takes place in the new girlfriend’s house, where they go to hide out in case the police have obtained the car’s license plate. As the general confusion grows, Farzad’s immaturity becomes positively dangerous, and accusations shift from the accident to other matters: debts, bets and money. Old grudges are exposed and no secret is left unexamined by the end of the long night.
In sports, “hat trick” means scoring three goals, wickets or home runs. Though it takes time to see its connection to the story, the film’s denouement revolves around a historic football match in which an underdog team famously defeats the favorite. This unexpected outcome changes Farzad’s and Lida’s lives and gives the ending a satisfying twist.
Shot without music and propelled by the dialogue alone, the film has a hard time shaking a feeling of filmed theater, particularly with the tight restriction of time and place. But the drama is brightly acted by a competent cast, of whom Jadidi and Izadyar, as the married couple, are the most acidic, while Abar and Alvand are given the most range.
Cast: Amir Jadidi, Parinaz Izadyar, Mahour Alvand, Saber Abar
Director, screenwriter: Ramtin Lavafi
Producer: Majid Motalebi
Executive producer: Ali Karim
Director of photography: Morteza Hodaei
Production designer: Mohsen Nasrollahi
Costume designer: Maral Jeirani
Editor: Hayedeh Safiyari
World sales: Persia Film Distribution
Venue: Fajr Film Festival (Film Market)