Rouhi (Taraneh Alidousti), a young Iranian woman, has the calm, watchful countenance of a neorealist heroine. As cowriter and director Asghar Farhadi introduces her, she’s just starting a temp job as a cleaning lady for an upper-middle-class Tehran couple and looking forward to her upcoming wedding, but things take a turn for the weird right from the start.
Mojdeh (Hediyeh Tehrani), the stressed-out wife, suspects Morteza (Hamid Farokh-Nejad), the chain-smoking husband, of cheating, so she gets Rouhi to scope out their newly divorced neighbor, Mrs. Simin (Pantea Bahram), a self-employed beautician. But Rouhi finds that the single mother has problems of her own.
What the three women have in common is that the men in their lives, from husbands to landlords, hold all the cards. Farhadi adds to the tension with the muted rumble of fireworks bursting throughout the city in anticipation of the upcoming New Year’s celebration.
Though the filmmaker’s About Elly (2009) made its theatrical debut last year, Fireworks Wednesday, which predates it by three years, plays like a precursor to 2011’s Oscar-winning A Separation as Farhadi depicts the myriad ways one troubled marriage can infect everyone in its orbit. Though surrounded by actors of talent, especially the women, Alidousti carries the film by way of her expressive, all-seeing eyes.