Despite a mainstream thrust that suggests Hollywood in its conventional blandness, this first feature by writer-director Nasser Refaie has a prototypical Iranian art movie orientation. It’s a comedy about a crowd of young women waiting to take a university entrance exam that never strays outside its schoolyard locationa graceful tour de force that’s limited by a reluctance to move beyond predictable character types. Unfolding over 80 minutes of real time, it evokes the modernist style of The White Balloon, and the focus on women determined to receive higher education is mildly feministthough the propensity of recent Iranian features for staging all their action in exteriors is at least partially a consequence of censorship laws requiring women in film interiors to wear chadors, however implausible. The giggles and prankishness of many of the exam takers are refreshing, yet it’s symptomatic of the overall mildness that the liveliest moments ensue when someone’s pet monkey gets loose and climbs a tree. In Farsi with subtitles. 80 min. (JR)

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