‘Under The Smoky Roof’: How far can one woman be pushed before she breaks?

“We don’t talk to each other,” says a character at one point in the film Under The Smoky Roof. “We only talk during special occasions like birthdays, weddings and funerals.”

Unfortunately, that sums up the situation at home quite well.

A bone-weary Shirin is at her wit’s end; she has a son who won’t talk to her, and a husband who can’t. The exasperated husband seeks solace in greener pastures, while she busies herself with domestic chores, the anchor of her mundane, if materially comfortable, existence.

She worries and she nags at all of them, but it all comes from a place of love. Still, even the most well-meaning intentions have a tendency to backfire in this household. But only one person seems to care… at least in the beginning. When the other family members finally decide to rally to fix things, is it a matter of too little, too late?

Under The Smoky Roof is a family drama that takes its time in warming up. Its take on marital strife is familiar and sombre, unlike Ceasefire 2 (another movie in the Iranian Film Festival that zooms in on a couple in marriage counselling) where comedy is used to move its story along.

One thing that remains consistent from start to end in Under The Smoky Roof is that it does not take sides; this film knows that there is always more than one side to a story and that sometimes in life, there are simply no winners.

The tension in this film builds without you quite realising just how far it has stretched – until it snaps.

Is this the point of no return? And is the ugly truth really better than a beautiful lie?

Perhaps the answer depends on who you ask.