Independent Film Preview
Young Ali: Those Were The Days
Amir Motlagh’s new film is a brave and unflinching exploration of a character during an intense emotional upheaval.
Amir Motlagh’s new film, Young Ali: Those Were The Days, is an engaging, uncompromising, intimate portrait of a man whose life is changing. While it is quiet, contemplative, and meditative it deals with large and turbulent emotional issues in a beautiful, relatable way. Like many of Motlagh’s films, it explores the essence of connection, re-connection, and disconnection: not only with the world, but the people in it. What sticks with me the most is the bravery of dissecting the complex emotional world of such a messy time for a character.
Ali is facing a big change after a divorce, and like many who do so, he returns to his parents’ home to recover and contemplate. During this time he is challenged — not just by his own feelings following the harsh disconnection, but also the difficulty in reconnecting to himself. We are invited to be with him and witness the time he spends evaluating not only who he is, but who he was — and ultimately who he wants to become. It’s a relatable story and one that we’ve all faced at sometime or in some way or another. We have all connected, and then disconnected. Motlagh’s adept storytelling connects us not only with those everyman moments, but allows us to experience and understand the specific challenges Ali faces. Not only is he facing his past, present and future and determining how he will connect with the world — but he must do so as the first born son to Persian parents in the US. The emotional truths laid bare have rung in my mind long after I’ve finished watching, and the juxtaposition of the specific nuances of Ali’s plight have stayed with me.
Motlagh’s performance as Ali is nuanced, careful, and naturalistic. Every moment with him feels real and grounded, even as he rides out the tumult of his emotional life. His performance is fierce and brave: Ali is both vulnerable and irascible, shaky yet stable. We are always close enough to him to understand why. Yousef Motlagh gives a beautiful performance as Ali’s father and infuses his scenes with an emotional complexity that feels both gentle and firm — strong and questioning. He…