No Date, No Signature


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

No Date, No Signature
"No Date, No Signature is a moral maze in which superb performances mean we can never lose sight of the human impact of what might seem like logical decisions."

It begins with a car crash – one of those things that seems to come out of nowhere in the dark. Colliding with a motorbike, Dr Nariman (Amir Aghaee), a forensic pathologist, hastens to check that its child passenger is okay. The boy seems woozy, not quite himself. Concerned about a head injury, Dr Nariman urges the boy’s father, Moosa (Navid Mohammedzadeh) to take him to hospital, offering him money as compensation for the accident that should cover any fees. Moosa is reluctant, something Dr Nariman cannot understand, but there’s not much he can do about it, so he leaves.

The following day the boy arrives at the hospital where Dr Nariman works, dead. A colleague diagnoses food poisoning, with tests to follow. But Dr Nariman cannot rid himself of the thought that the accident is to blame. He becomes obsessed with finding out the truth, whilst the boy’s heartbroken parents struggle with their own feelings of guilt and Moosa grows furious at the factory worker who illegally sold him chicken not fit for human consumption.

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Does it matter if the accident killed the boy if he would have been dead within days anyway? Does it make a difference that, if he had gone to hospital as a result of that, the food poisoning might have been diagnosed in time to save him? Is Dr Nariman, in insisting that the truth is all-important, actually putting his own comfort, through the clearing of his conscience, before the well-being of the bereaved parents? No Date, No Signature is a moral maze in which superb performances mean we can never lose sight of the human impact of what might seem like logical decisions, nor of the human compulsions driving those decisions.

This is also a film about class and the gulf between Dr Nariman’s world and Moosa’s. Why didn’t the father take the boy to hospital? Why didn’t he want the money? The fear of indebtedness and distrust of authority that make complete sense for poor people are alien to the pathologist, like the risk taken in buying meat from somewhere other than a supermarket or butcher, something unfathomable without a deep understanding of the day to day worry that stems from not being able to give one’s children enough protein. Moosa’s fury at those involved in his son’s poisoning (including himself) is also fury at his position in society, something which a single middle class man offering himself up as a sacrifice cannot atone for.

Writer/director Vahid Jalilvand straddles both worlds as he weaves this complex psychological drama, showing sympathy for all his characters. This is a sensitive and intelligent piece of work which unfolds like a detective story only to remind the viewer that, in the real world, injustice is never that simple.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2018
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No Date, No Signature packshot
A pathologist is riven with guilt after the death of a child.

Director: Vahid Jalilvand

Writer: Ali Zarnegar, Vahid Jalilvand

Starring: Amir Agha’ee, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Hediyeh Tehrani, Sa’eed Dakh, Alireza Ostadi, Zakiyeh Behbahani

Year: 2017

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: Iran

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