at the Federalist:
It’s easy to make “About Elly” sound simple. The film (made in 2009 but newly arrived on these shores) from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who gave us 2011’s Oscar-winning divorce drama “A Separation,” is about a group of college friends who go off for a vacation by the sea. They bring along Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), the teacher of one of the friends’ daughters, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
When tragedy strikes, the friends must try to figure out who Elly really is. If they can figure out her nature—hero or villain, unfaithful woman or frightened victim—they can figure out what happened that terrible day by the sea.
Part of what makes “About Elly” so haunting is that it’s about three overlapping attempts to play existential detective: to bring order from chaos, and to transform painful events in our lives from unresolved misery to puzzles we can solve with enough hard work, and thereby to get closure.