"Tells a devastating tale, earnestly affecting and heartbreakingly emotional..."

It seems somewhat absurd that it takes the success of Asghar Farhadi's A Separation for the director's preceding feature About Elly - made two years previous - to finally warrant a British cinematic release, as if there was ever a film that completely and utterly deserves a release based upon it's own merit; it's this.

We follow three Iranian families who join together for a weekend retreat to the seaside, with an underlying intention of bringing two single friends together. The trip has been organised by Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani), as she hopes in playing cupid and match making her recently divorced friend Ahmad (Shahab Hosseini) and her young daughters school teacher Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti).

The group - travelling away together with their partners and young children, have never actually met Elly before, and are using this break to get to know their new friend. However disaster strikes, as following a conversation in which Elly declares her desire to return home, she then disappears, leaving her belongings behind. The distraught collective fear the worst, as they suspect she may have drowned in the sea when attempting to save a young child's life, but as time progresses they grow increasingly unsure of Elly's actual fate, as the young woman's disappearance sparks a conflict amongst the collective, as cracks within their own relationships begin to appear.

In a similar vein to the Oscar winning A Separation, About Elly tells a devastating tale, earnestly affecting and heartbreakingly emotional thanks to the ingenious direction by Farhadi and astounding performances across the board. There is an uncomfortable intensity which exists in his work, where even when things are actually going relatively well, you are always wary of something disastrous occurring - almost like an Iranian Shane Meadows.

Films that tackle upsetting stories such as this can go either way - often at risk of becoming far too melodramatic and theatrical. However About Elly is hauntingly realistic, with an array of naturalistic performances from the cast members, in what are truly some of the finest you'll see from a group of performers in contemporary cinema.

Farahani stands out as the gregarious Sepideh, as she displays the two separate aspects to her character with wonderful conviction, summing up the cold change of mood within the movie as soon as Elly is feared dead. At the beginning Sepideh is benevolent and playful as she attempts to force love upon her two friends. However in the second half of the film she turns her character around incredibly as she has to take brunt of the blame for Elly's potential death. Her performance is unrelenting and moving - a sentiment extended to all of those within the film.

Farhadi has devised this picture masterfully as it feels almost like two separate films, as the entire tone changes dramatically as soon as Elly disappears. The opening act is charming and jovial which only enhances the effect of the devastation caused in the second half of the film. In this respect Farhadi has really represented the distressing reality of unforeseeable, unimaginable tragedy, highlighting just how much one single act can change life as we know it.

One of the most fascinating aspects to About Elly, is how Farhadi intelligently groups us with the characters in the film as the audience are in the same boat in regards to the mystifying circumstances that surround Elly's disappearance. We don't see the incident, leaving us to scratch our heads as much as our protagonists, desperately trying to work out whether she is dead or alive, and if the latter, where she has run away to, and why.

About Elly is just a fantastic piece of cinema, and one that simply blew me away - provoking an array of emotions, in a film that is bound to stay with you for years to come. It may have taken three years for this film to earn a release in the UK, but hey, I'm certainly not complaining, because now it has arrived, I'm absolutely thrilled.