By Kaveh Mazaheri | Drama
An Iranian woman's husband has an accident at home... and she just watches him die.

Young mother Maryam is getting ready one morning, trying to balance preparing her child for the day while her husband begins an exercise session.

But then her husband calls out from the other room, trapped underneath a heavy weight he was lifting. His life in the balance, Maryam initially makes a few attempts to help, but the weights are too heavy and stuck. She watches as he dies before her eyes — giving her a moral dilemma, and a chance to remake her life.

Written and directed by Kaveh Mazaheri and co-produced by the Iranian Youth Cinema Society, this short drama seems, on its surface, a domestic-slice-of-life story disrupted by a quiet yet undeniably disturbing incident. But as it progresses, it becomes a fascinating character portrait of a woman at a crossroads in her life, presented with an opportunity to change everything.

The film rests on lead actor Sonia Sanjari, who plays Maryam with a remarkable silence and stillness. With both precision and economy, she portrays Maryam as a compliant woman with little voice in her life, who has always done what she has been told to do without much recourse for protest or complaint.

Around Sanjari’s top-notch performance, Mazaheri constructs a remarkably intelligent, uniquely engaging film, making strong and memorable directorial decisions at every turn. As the film opens, the documentary-like camera chooses to focus on the husband, as he lobs a stream of small yet persistent demands for Maryam’s caretaking as she tries to get her toddler to eat.

But the film shifts to Maryam at its pivotal moment, the camera and editing choose to stay on Maryam’s face, the moment capturing the complexity of Maryam’s response: first her ineffectual helplessness, and then her removed, distant blankness as her husband dies before her eyes. Her multifaceted, layered reaction says much about not just who she is, but what her life with her husband was like for her. It is a masterful acting moment, handled with great delicacy, honesty and bravery by a gifted actress.

After witnessing what she does, Maryam proceeds through the rest of the day, carrying her secret. The discrepancy between what she and the audience knows and the everyday life around her creates a narrative question of what she will do with her secret. But it is a testament to the film’s almost forensic emotional precision that it doesn’t drive the film forward in a traditional way.

Instead, its interest remains with Maryam, as well as the quotidian rhythms and concerns of Iranian life and the way women proceed within it, fitting themselves around persistent, small pressures that, collectively, exert a great weight — a weight that perhaps pushes Maryam to make her final decision.

Situating “Retouch” in a rich and fascinating film tradition like Iran’s is beyond the scope of a review, but like many of Iran’s greatest films, it operates from both an objective, dispassionate distance and a subtle, understated intimacy, using both storytelling lenses to provoke questions, create productive tensions and test compassion.

An uneasy, riveting triumph of short-form storytelling, the emotions “Retouch” evokes are complex and unforgettable as the story, as it brings up disbelief, moral horror and yet genuine heartbreak as well.

You Might Also Like:

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


By Christophe M. Saber | Comedy
A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse.

The Landing

By Josh Tanner | Sci-Fi
A man uncovers the horrifying truth of what landed on his childhood farm.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying (Sundance)

By Stefanie Abel Horowitz | Drama
A woman thinks about dying. But a co-worker asks her out.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Sci-Fi
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Drama
A father is cut off from his son, then takes matters into his own hands...

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Romance
An elderly man is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Lost and Found (Oscars)

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A clumsy crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.


By Joe Gillette | Romance
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.

Garfield (Sundance)

By Georgi Bank-Davies | Romance
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man works in a food truck, across from a brothel with a girl who needs his help.

Long Branch

By Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart | Romance
A young woman finds a one-night stand. But he lives 2 hours away via public transit.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.