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Women Without Men (Zanan-e bedun-e mardan) (2009)



Average Rating: 6.3/10
Reviews Counted: 38
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 11

Its reach may exceed its grasp, but Women Without Men's beautiful imagery and quiet elegance will entrance patient viewers.


Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 14
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 5

Its reach may exceed its grasp, but Women Without Men's beautiful imagery and quiet elegance will entrance patient viewers.



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Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 551

My Rating

Movie Info

Three women come together in a nation on the verge of a revolution in this drama from artist-turned-filmmaker Shirin Neshat. It's 1953, and political discord has gripped Iran as a military coup d'etat threatens to depose Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Munis (Shabnam Tolouei) is a thoughtful woman who has been following the news with great interest, though her brother Assad (Bijan Daneshmand) regards her interest in politics as foolish and unbecoming a woman. Munis' friend Faezeh (Pegah


Art House & International, Drama


Shoja Azari

Mar 1, 2011

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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (11) | DVD (1)

Its elegiac mood and chiaroscuro beauty are hard to shake.

July 9, 2010 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Eloquent film illuminates Iranian history from a female point of view.

July 6, 2010
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The script jettisons most of the book's more powerful sections, upping the political angle and inexplicably eliminating motivations that made the strongly feminist story, rich in symbolism, so intriguing.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a celebration of women's resilience in the face of absolute patriarchy, an oppression that's felt on personal, cultural, and political levels.

July 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Women Without Men has compelling stretches, but the film's formal concerns overwhelm the storytelling.

June 3, 2010 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It seduces us with imagery and metaphor.

May 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Neshat's images are startling in their sensual immediacy and aesthetic nuance.

June 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

The images are vivid, their meanings much less so.

October 8, 2010 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

A poetic, impressionistic portrait of four women tangentially caught up in the political turmoil.

July 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Scotsman

A work of real beauty.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

Heavy with symbolism and beautifully composed, it's in a traditional art house mode far removed from the quizzical, innovative, subtly subversive films that Iranian directors have been making under extraordinary pressures this past quarter of a century.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The director's use of blatantly artificial devices - characters gliding along the ground, fast-breaking dawns - detaches her film from its strongest sources of turbulence and despair.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

It is implacably in favour of women without in any way straining for effect.

June 16, 2010 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

With this debut feature, the photographer-turned-director Shirin Neshat has made a picture with vision, poetry, sexual frankness and historical sinew.

June 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

A film that buckles under the weight of a grand ambition becomes a muddied if not entirely missed opportunity.

June 10, 2010
Little White Lies

Women without Men is a series of tableaux to which no one brought the vivants.

June 9, 2010 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Neshat seems more interested in making a statement and wrapping it in heavy melodrama.

June 4, 2010 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A movie with honorable intentions that is hobbled by its magical realist origins that put exposition and character development at the bottom of its concerns.

May 21, 2010 Full Review Source:

Quietly engrossing, lyrical and visually sumptuous without veering toward melodrama or pretension.

May 15, 2010 Full Review Source: NYC Movie Guru
NYC Movie Guru

Audience Reviews for Women Without Men (Zanan-e bedun-e mardan)

1953 Iran is like the present day Iran in some areas, as women have to live by prescribed roles in both times. For example, Zarin(Orsolya Toth) is a prostitute. Fakhri(Arita Shahrzad) is nearing fifty and encounters Abbas(Bijan Daneshmand), an ex-flame, just as her husband(Tahmoures Tehrani), a general, is threatening to marry a younger woman. It is Munis(Shabnam Toloui) who sees the possibility for a better future as she listens to news reports on the radio about the protests that are happening just outside her door but is forbidden from attending by her brother Amir Khan(Essa Zahir) who is angry at her for not being married at the ripe old age of thirty, as her friend Faezeh(Pegah Ferydoni) commiserates with her.

"Women without Men" gets off to a slow start but gains steam and a visual flair once it not only escapes from its social realist origins to tell its story from a magic realism angle, but also as the female characters are escaping from their roles. Zarin runs away from the brothel to the country while Fakhri herself runs away and buys an orchard. Munis' escape is the most drastic but it is also not the end of her story, as rebirth in both a literal and a symbolic sense is a major theme of the movie as Iran is born again in a revolution(I love that a Communist is portrayed in a positive light), just not one with a happy ending this time around for the country.

(Originally reviewed May 16, 2010)
July 16, 2010
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

I saw this at the Cleveland International Film Fest. The director, Shirin Neshat, and her partner and co-director, Shoja Azari, were there to answers questions and meet people after the movie. The story is adapted from a novel by Shahrnoush Parsipour. Shoja stated that the movie is about 30% of the book. All three of these artists are exiled from their native Iran.

The film is a great work of art. The way I heard it described I expected it to be various visual images spliced together to convey an artistic meaning. But it has a strong narrative, well defined characters, and the visual flourishes that are present are still tied to reality and moving the story forward.

Munis (Toloui) is the first woman we meet. She lives with her brother in 1950's Iran and is interested in social activism. Faezeh (Ferydoni) is her friend. Faezeh at first is content with Iranian traditions, but later comes to seek a new way. Fakhri (Shahrzad) is a more mature woman who is married to a high ranking military man who may potentially be the next prime minister. Her westernized old boyfriend comes back into her life. He has poets, philosophers, artists, and socialists for friends. Fakhri decides to become independent and moves into a house surrounded by an enchanting orchard. Then there is Zarin (Toth), who is a prostitute. Zarin runs away from that life but can't seem to get clean. Zarin wanders a long road to a distant horizon and finally finds the paradise like orchard. Faezeh with the help of Munis (who may be a ghost) also finds her way up the long road to the orchard and Fakhri's house. Munis returns to town to observe and help with the political protests. But Zarin, Faezeh, and Fakhri try to make a new life. I liked the setting of the orchard. The location is used to symbolize both paradise in the daytime with bright colors while the sun streams down and a nightmare at night with shadows darting about and a real sense that you could get lost. The supporting cast is great. Overall an excellent film.
March 26, 2010

Super Reviewer

Magic realism works surprisingly well alongside "everyday life" in this drama which focuses on the interweaving of four Iranian women in 1953 - the year of the US/British coup d'etat. Complex but approachable, the film deftly tackles feminist, religious and political themes in an assured evocation of period. Excellent performances from the four lead actors.
March 4, 2013

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Zanan-e bedun-e mardan (DE)
  • Women Without Men (FR)
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