Empty Nets

UK Premiere | 1 June 13:10 | Odeon Luxe West End

In a wholesome pursuit of young love, working-class Amir wants nothing more than to marry his clandestine upper-class girlfriend Narges. But his determination to get the approval of her family and pay her hefty dowry quickly leads him down a dangerous journey into the gritty depths of Iran’s fisheries.

In writer-director Behrooz Karamizade’s piercing, Iran-set debut, “Empty Nets”, the human struggle for the right to love is overruled by expectations steeped in economics, corruption and social hierarchy. Painting a fierce portrait of cultural barriers and the scarcity of opportunity for young people in modern-day Iran, Karamizade’s crime drama is as romantic as it is suspenseful. 

Set by the wintery coast of the Caspian sea, we are introduced to our protagonist Amir (Hamid Reza Abbasi) – a lovesick, hope-filled, talented swimmer who lives at home with his single mother (Pantea Panahiha). His relationship with his girlfriend Narges (Sadaf Asgari) thrives through their frequent beachside trysts, and despite Narges’ parents’ disapproval of their desire to marry due to Amir’s lower social class, he is determined to win them over, working tirelessly at his job as a waiter to meet the hefty dowry they demand. 

But when he is unexpectedly laid off from his job – owing to Iran’s difficult employment market – he takes up a job at the local fishery on the Caspian sea. Working under the thumb of greedy bosses, the pay is low, so he discovers that the best money is made via illegal night-time operations of black market caviar-smuggling. 

As a result of its demands, the couple’s rendezvous becomes scarce, leaving Narges frustrated at having to stall more to delay an arranged marriage her parents have in store. In Empty Nets, the timeless tale of star-crossed lovers has ensnared Amir and Narges, where love alone cannot conquer the harsh realities of life in Iran. As innocence is stripped away, morality is compromised and secrets pile up, Amir’s transformation unfolds amid an unforgiving landscape, where he grapples with his growing unease in a cutthroat environment.

Behrooz Karamizade | 101 mins | Germany, Iran