We first meet a young Hibat in 1955, growing up as a one of 12 children, in southern Iran. As he gets older, Hibat (Kheiron) blossoms into a brilliant student, but also becomes politicised, angry at the oppressive rule of the Shah. He becomes a leftist agitator and soon finds himself in prison, serving a ten year sentence for political activism.
By the time he leaves prison, change is sweeping Iran, but the rise of the Ayotollahs is not the kind of revolution Hibat hoped for. He meets and falls in love with the beautiful Fereshteh (Leïla Bekhti), however, any future life together, as well as the safety of their newly born son, is threatened as Hibat again finds himself persecuted for his political beliefs. The family decide find to leave to leave Iran, making a hazardous mountain crossing to Turkey, before eventually settling in France.
Once there Hibat’s story changes and becomes a classic immigrant tale as the family struggles to adapt to life in a new country. However, Hibat’s social conscience doesn’t stay idle for long and he soon takes on a local government role, managing a run down community centre in a poorly serviced housing block.
Kheiron, a popular French comedian directs and stars in this film, based on the true story of his own father, who defected to France in 1983. This accounts perhaps for the slightly breezy portrayal of Hibat. While his imprisonment is bleak and bloody, we don’t see much darkness or self-doubt in his decision to leave Iran or in the face of the struggles he faces in France.
Thankfully, this isn’t at the expense of giving us an immigrant’s view of social change. Few recent films I can recall do as good a job of capturing the humour new settlers experience as they find their closest friends not in the locals of their host nation, but in the opportunity seeking folks who’ve come from other countries and whose cultures and customs are every bit as new and strange as those of the country in which they’ve all chosen to settle. The richness of this in the final act, is what gives All Three Of Us it’s wonderfully memorable humanity.
One reviewer posted on Twitter that this film was too beautiful to be true, which is at best the jaundiced view of a critic out of touch with the human condition and at worst, the voice of privilege and perhaps even racism, out of touch with the plight of immigrants around the world. The triumph of All Three Of Us, a success that far outweighs the films other possible limitations, is the way it manages to sympathetically portray the contribution immigrants can make to their new host societies at a time when the debate around immigration in so much of the world and especially in Europe where this film is set, has become so charged and toxic. This allows All Three Of Us, to not just be beautiful and true, which it is, but also timely, important and perhaps even revolutionary.
And, it helped All Three Of Us secure the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.