Streaming Surprises, Volume 7

Taraneh Alidoosti stars in the Asghar Farhadi thriller “About Elly.” (Photo by Axiom Films)
Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“About Elly” (2009)
The fourth film from Iranian master filmmaker Asghar Farhadi — writer/director of the Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning “A Separation” and most recently “The Salesman,” which just earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film — starts slowly, with middle-class friends from law school in Iran planning a seaside retreat. One friend, Sepideh, insists on bringing her daughter’s teacher, Elly, along for the weekend, with a special plan to set her up with a recently divorced friend. Everything goes smoothly until a child is found drowning and then Elly goes missing. The friendly atmosphere is broken by tragedy and deceit. While following a classic thriller format, the film also quietly muses on moral issues of fate and the profound and subtle impact we have on each other’s lives.
Submitted by Cassandra Ruby. Available on Netflix.

“Under the Shadow” (2016)
In Tehran, Shideh has just been blacklisted from medical college, her husband has been drafted, and her daughter is seeing things. Taking place during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, a mother starts to suspect something is very off in her apartment complex. “Under the Shadow” is a slow-burning chiller that effortlessly combines family drama and social commentary, with just enough scares thrown in. What truly makes this film is Shideh, portrayed by actress Narges Rashidi. Shideh not only deals with her own issues but also a supernatural entity, as the audience is submerged into Shideh’s world full of fear and uncertainty.
Submitted by Benjamin Woodcock. Available on Netflix.

“Strictly Ballroom” (1992)
This is delightful re-imagining of the Ugly Duckling story as told through an Australian dance competition, was the film that began my love affair with auteur director Baz Luhrmann. It’s romantic, funny, and full of dancing. Luhrmann’s neon-laced sense of humor may take a bit of getting used to, but once you’re in, you’re in. I’ve watched this movie a dozen times and the soundtrack has a permanent place in my heart. The next time you’re in the mood for some truly escapist cinema, “Strictly Ballroom” is your pick.
Submitted by Fae Giffen. Available on Amazon Prime.