Opponent – REVIEW

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Opponent - a refugee drama that differs from the norm

This tale of Iman (Payman Maadi) sprints into action from the very start, quite literally, as he tails it out of a gym’s  back door in a manner not Boris Johnson heard his  mistress husband arrive home unexpectedly. But Iman is running from the police and it’s a wrestler opponent who tries to point him out to police that sees Iman beat him unconscious. Just what all this is about is one of several questions which are answered throughout the films flashbacks

Iman is a refugee in Sweden with his wife (Marall Nasiri) and two children and the vagaries of the system sees them shunted from place to place with him earning a meagre income working as a pizza deliverer. The family are living in a drawn out limbo of possible repatriation to Iran and are now awaiting the outcome of an appeal. But with Maryam pregnant, a translator friend suggests that their asylum case could be strengthened further if Iman took up his sport of wrestling once more and representing Sweden. It an idea not supported by Maryam and as the film progresses it becomes clear why and in turn why they had to flee Iran.

It’s when he begins training again that the physicality of the sport sees a potential team mate Thomas (Bjorn Elgerd) attempt to move from friend to something far more intimate. And it is here that the inner conflict within Iman arises – angry yet anxious, yearning yet in denial – he is a man fighting with his own emotions unclear about his own destiny and what is the right thing to do. His relationship with his wife grows ever more strained and the frequent furtive anonymous phone calls that he receives only adds to the pressure which comes to a head when the Iran wrestling team arrive to compete against Sweden.

Payman Maadi conveys all the inner turmoil brilliantly and is matched by Marall Nasiri with each wanting the best for themselves and yet there is no easy answer to their situation and it makes for a refugee drama far different from the usual.

related feature ; Ken Loach’s ‘The Old Oak’ reviewed

related feature : ‘Drift’ director Anthony Chen takes us behind the scenes of this Cynthia Erivo drama

Here’s the Opponent trailer….

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