The Persian Version: Iranian-American family comedy

Layla Mohammadi in The Persian Version

The Persian Version, written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, tells the story of Leila and her Iranian-American family. Especially important are her mother and grandmother. Leila speaks directly to the viewers in 4th wall breaking voice overs throughout the entire movie. This unique and clever film uses animations, dance sequences, and straight drama to explain Leila’s life and family.

The Persian Version begins when Leila (Layla Mohammadi with Chiara Stella as young Leila) heads to a Halloween party dressed in a burka on top and a bikini on the bottom. Leila has just broken up with her girlfriend and is not in a good place.

Tom Byrne in The Persian Version

At the party, Leila crushes on Max (Tom Byrne). He’s in drag as his character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. They have sex, and, well, you know, it only takes once, folks. Leila goes back to her normal lesbian agenda and doesn’t think about Max again. Except, well, you know.

Layla Mohammadi in The Persian Version
Leila breaks the 4th wall

For years the young Leila was dragged back and forth to Iran. She was used as a mule for illegal imports like Cyndi Lauper cassette tapes.

Leila’s mother, Shireen (Niousha Noor with Kamand Shafieisabet as young Shireen), started having babies at the age of 13 while still in Iran. Her husband was a 22 year old doctor. When they fled Iran after a scandal rocked the family, Shireen produced a whole army of sons – and Leila.

The whole family, played by Samuel Tehrani, Andrew Malik, Jerry Habibi, Parsa Kaffash, M. Mehdi Tahmasebi, Kamyab Falahati, Bijan Daneshmand, Niousha Noor, Layla Mohammadi, Arty Froushan, and Reza Diako. That’s a lot of boys!

As an adult, Leila’s mother kicked her out of Thanksgiving for bringing her girlfriend to dinner with her. Her grandmother, Mamanjoon (Bella Warda) was more sympathetic. She told Leila about the secret scandal that had forced the family to leave Iran.

Niousha Noor in The Persian Version

Even at 13, Shireen was a force of nature. The adult Shireen was wonderfully played by Niousha Noor. She’s so good in this! She became a realtor and made a ton of money selling homes to immigrants.

After all the drama that went on in the film, it became clear that the story was really about Leila’s rocky relationship with her mother.

The humor and creativity in The Persian Version reminded me of Polite Society, although that film was about Pakistani immigrants. The broad humor, the authentic costumes, the dancing, and the immigrant mentality were similar. If you liked Polite Society, I think you’ll like The Persian Version. I thought it was clever and fun and heartfelt.

You can find this film on Netflix.

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