Set against the stark, rural Iranian desert, Asteroid is the feature length debut of Mehdi Hoseinivand Aalipour. Returning home from working on a date farm, 12-year-old Ebrahim finds work in the local community to support his mother and five younger siblings. All the while, he and his mother struggle to save so that they may build a home for their family. It is a heartfelt and endearing, yet ultimately bittersweet, portrayal of a young boy made to bear the weight of being the breadwinner for his family.

At the heart of the film is young Ebrahim. Constantly working, his sole ambition is to own a garden. He finds joy in the little things in life; helping his brother build a kite and making pizza as a treat for his family. At the same time he must balance his child-like qualities with the responsibilities that ultimately prevent him from being one. 

There’s something unremittingly heart-breaking about the film in this sense. Where his friend is constantly bragging about moving to Tehran and becoming wealthy, Ebrahim does not allow himself to dream in such a manner as he must focus on looking after his family. He cuts his own ambitions short so that his siblings may go to school and devotes himself to bolstering his family’s hopes and dreams. 

This is all portrayed excellently by Ebrahim Zarozehi who brings a morose nuance to his performance that extends to the rest of the film. There’s almost something detached and unsentimental about Asteroid that reflects Ebrahim’s disaffected state. That’s not to say the film lacks emotion. In fact it’s brimming with it. But Ebrahim’s quiet acceptance of his position within society brings with it an unrequited sense of tragedy. 

It’s in its most quiet moments that Asteroid triumphs. While there were some issues with the subtitles and translation in the version provided which meant some of the nuance felt lost, it never fully detracted from the film or lessened its impact. It’s an understated piece that wields great weight behind its veneer of simplicity.

Screening as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2022