Djomeh (Farsi)

“Djomeh” is a work of fiction, but every single moment looks, breathes and feels like real life. If it weren’t so artfully composed and photographed, you’d think it was a documentary.

For this reason, I can’t imagine it being terribly popular in its native Iran. What looks to a Westerner like a fascinating glimpse of everyday Iranian life must seem very boring to the people who live that life.

Djomeh (Jalil Nazari) is a 20-year-old Afghan boy who has left his homeland not because of the war there — which is why many of his countrymen leave — but because he behaved improperly with a widow lady and embarrassed his family. He works for a poor dairyman, Mr. Mohmoud (Mahmoud Behraznia), and desperately seeks companionship. He is a lonely young man.

He has a relative, Habib (Rashid Akbari), who also works for Mohmoud, but he’s disgusted by Djomeh’s youth and frovilous ideas. He has many heart-to-heart talks with Mohmoud, but the Iranian and Afghan cultures often clash too much for them to truly bond.

Ah, but he has fallen in love with Setareh (Mahbobeth Khalili), the daughter of a nearby merchant. As kids will often do, Djomeh frequently makes silly excuses to visit her at the shop, eventually buying so much canned food that Habib doesn’t know where to put it. He’s smitten, for sure, but as a foreigner without local family, he doesn’t have much hope for being able to marry her.

Writer/director Hassan Yektapanah uses comfortable silences and subtle imagery to his advantage, letting the story unfold without hurrying it along. Translated, that means it is slow-going — a minus for many films, but a plus here, where the atmosphere of dusty Iran and the lives of the local people are easy to watch. It is a sublime, carefully assembled movie.

B+ (; PG, mild thematic elements.)