Farhad Pakdel, the writer/director/producer of the short “Everything Will Be All Right” helms this 16 minute short tale of a young pregnant teacher, Leila, trying to reach home in Iran before her father dies of Covid. Pakdel underscores Leila’s situation with the underpinning of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is playing at SXSW 2022, and I hope we see Pakdel’s first feature-length film here in the future.
Orpheus, you will recall, went to the Underworld to retrieve the love of his life, Eurydice, but he was told he could not look back while leading her from Hades. When he did look back, she was sentenced to live in Hades forever and he was killed. The students in Leila’s class (Leila is beautifully played by Nahema Ricci of “Antigone”) point out the unfairness of the fact that Eurydice did nothing to bring her fate down upon her; she was thrust into Hades forever by circumstances beyond her control, the actions of Orpheus in disobeying his instructions. So, too, is Leila being buffeted by the vagaries of fate.
Pakdel is commencing work on his first feature film (after 9 shorts) and has a Master’s in Cinema from the University of Tehran and a Master’s in film from the University of Montreal. He shows depth and competence that bodes well for future work.
The film is shot in Montreal during the height of the pre-vaccine Covid outbreak (March of 2020). Leila, shown in her classroom discussing the story of Orpheus and Eurydice with her students, has just received word that her father back home in Iran is seriously ill and hospitalized.
As the short moves us forward, detailing Leila’s efforts to leave work and secure passage home, the prime minister of Montreal, Francois Legault, has just announced that all schools will be closing for two weeks due to the pandemic. However, there are complications well beyond simply securing air fare during a time of international chaos surrounding air travel. There is the doctor appointment that Leila must re-arrange, but how?
The backdrop to the story of Leila’s desperate attempts to get home in time to say good-bye to her terminally ill father is that she is pregnant and scheduled for an abortion, which will be complicated by the necessary quarantine restrictions should she leave the country, as she will move from 10 to 14 weeks pregnant. The romance—[if it was a romance and not assault]—with the baby’s father is long over; he has now become a stalker.
Leila had made up her mind to terminate the pregnancy, but the various time constraints associated with flying overseas during a pandemic cause all sorts of problems with that plan. At one point in the cab on her way to the airport, Leila has to step out of the cab. to say good bye to her father by phone via FaceTime as he lies mortally ill in an intensive care unit in a hospital thousands of miles away.
This scenario of having to say good bye to family members via Face time is gut-wrenching; I think of it every day. It played out in my own family with the loss of my 62-year-old sister-in-law to Covid on April 18, 2020. FaceTime is how she had to say good-bye to her husband and three adult children.
Facing a few health situations of my own currently, I am well aware of the conflicting emotions that must be sweeping over the pregnant young woman, buffeted by the vagaries of fate. She steps outside the cab at one point—no doubt to say good-bye forever to her beloved father— and, when she re-enters the vehicle, the cab driver says, “Spring is unpredictable. Everything will be all right.”
Will it? What will happen to Leila from this point forward? Does she continue driving towards the airport for a departure to her homeland anyway? I wanted to know more about Leila, and, while I understood the title and its mythical import (it helped that I taught a unit on Myths and Legends for 20 years to junior high school students), I still wanted to know if everything WAS going to be “all right” for Leila, so well played by Ms. Ricci.
This short is both poignant, timely and resonates with the world today. It was well constructed to drive tension, has excellent camera work from Alexandre Bussiere, is well-acted, and makes me want to see more from this talented filmmaker (and to learn more about the fictional Leila, caught in a trap not of her own making.) Bravo!
“Belle River,” a short at SXSW 2022:
“Belle River” was a journey to Pierre Part, Louisiana. The area is flooded and the Morgana Spillway is opened to protect Baton Rouge and Louisiana, just the third time that has occurred in over a century. It is unclear what effect, exactly, this has had on Pierre Part in terms of “before” and “after” the opening of the spillway.
The entire 16 minute short from Guillaume Towner, Samuel Matteau, and Yannick Nolin simply shows us flooded homes and stores. There are unidentified residents (speaking in Cajun French with English subtitles) saying, “If we get a hurricane, that’ll really mess us up.” However, along with pointing out the obvious (flooded streets, homes and businesses), lines like “We’re ready. We’re prepared for this,” seem like whistling in the dark.
There was no real documentation of how far underwater the town has become due to the opening of the spillway or just the effects of nature and no “main character” or main characters for us to relate to, as were highlighted in 2019’s “Lowland Kids.”
In “Lowland Kids”, also shown at SXSW (3/12/2019) we learned that the area of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana was losing one football field-sized piece of land to the water every hour on the hour. There were 180 to 200 families in Isle de Jean Charles who were about to become the first casualties of global warming and flooding in Louisiana. We also got to hear from Juliette and Howard Brundt, a brother and sister living with their handicapped Uncle and about to be displaced from the only home they have ever known.
I was disappointed that “Belle River” had so little concrete information on Pierre Part’s situation and would recommend the slightly older (2019) short “Lowland Kids,” reviewed on this blog at that time. “Belle River” needed more information from the filmmakers, because it simply plays like an insert on the evening news in its current format.
Check out “Lowland Kids,” reviewed on this blog, for another short film that makes a great companion piece to “Belle River.”