Tony (tectactoe)’s review published on Letterboxd:
An achievement in the way it casually intuits the purity of children, recognizing their unsullied humanity as the thread of hope that will one day unravel the tightly knit cycle of learned authoritarianism that cascades over adolescents: Discipline by way of humiliation, neglect, and expected servitude. As vocalized by Ahmed’s grandfather - in what’s my least favorite segment of the film because it leans too heavily on explicit dialogue - the ideology of corporal punishment as a parenting tactic is parlayed from generation to generation, until one becomes so used to such treatment that they normalize it; they know nothing else. Simple requests uttered ad infinitum that fall upon deaf ears; poetic, nearly abstract in its repetitive rhythm but (appropriately) frustrating in its obvious futility. Adults hardened by a lifelong exposure to chains of command and the insisted importance of blindly following orders; altruism and human decency petrify and crumble to dust, kept from wafting away only through the innocence of youth. Constructed through realism and simplicity, but slyly heightened in unobtrusive ways e.g. the labyrinthesque layout of the villages through which Ahmed stumbles (aided by what I assume are actually nonsequential cuts abutted to appear contiguous albeit disorienting), meant to magnify his troubles through a child’s lens. Thought the rheumatic carpenter was merely a lovely but superfluous (and unfortunately unsuccessful) aside; didn’t occur to me until the final shot - the flower tucked gently between the pages of Mohammed’s notebook - that Kiarostami was cleverly coming full circle, highlighting one individual that managed to break free of the autocratic mold. I like to think the helpful (and hilariously talkative) carpenter will become Ahmed’s exemplar of maturity.