What You Need To Know:
(BB, Fe, L, V, M) Moral worldview with the underlining question of who’s or what law governs and a focus on the plight of women in Iran; two obscenities and two profanities; man hit on head; no sex; no nudity; smoking; and, corrupt legal system.
THE FIFTH REACTION is another in a long line of poignant movies about the plight of women in Iran under the repressive Islamic system. The movie opens with some teachers taking their lunch hour. One by one, each tells the others how wonderful their husband is – except for Fershteh, who is a widow, and another, who was never married. Tamereh, who paints the most idyllic picture of her loving husband, is interrupted when her husband Hussein comes into the restaurant with his young secretary. A verbal fight ensues, he tells her to go home, she refuses, so he tells her never to come back. Suddenly, everyone’s mask is off, and the true stories of the repression by their Islamic husbands come to light.
From that point, the movie focuses on the widow, Fershteh. Fershteh’s father-in-law, Hadj, an important businessman in Tehran society, tells her she must leave his home. She reminds him that he always told her she was like a daughter to him. He says yes, but now that his son (her husband) is dead, she can’t stay because he has two single sons living in his home. She asks about her children, his grandchildren, and, he says that, of course he’s going to keep them. With the help of Tamerah, Fershteh decides to take the children and run. The father-in-law, Hadj, enlists the police and all of his employees to find her. He issues complaints against all her women friends, and they are put in jail. He taps all the phones of Fershteh’s friends and eventually tracks her down.
The implicit question in THE FIFTH REACTION is, “Where do you appeal for justice when Islamic law makes the man a petty potentate?” The answer, which is never said, is that you need a higher law, God’s Law. As it is, the Islamic law only serves the men in the society, and there is very little grace in their relationship with the women. The ending is surprising. Ultimately, the movie is a rebuke of the Islamic system. It is also surprising that it got made in Iran. The acting is good, and the direction is, too. The editing could have been much tighter, and the film quality is mixed. However, the movie captures you and doesn’t let you go until it’s finished.