Cold Sweat is one of those films that is right out of newspaper pages, or in this age, right out of social networks pages. A female futsal player of the Iranian national team (Afrooz) is banned by her husband from traveling abroad to play in a tournament’s final game. The husband is a famous TV show host. This story took place in the real world so recently that is still in the Iranians’ memory with all details and this is the film’s Achilles’ heel. The film does not have much more to offer to its viewers than what they already know and fails to dramatize the story beyond a one-line news title. Niloufar Ardalan, the futsal player with exactly the same case and married to Mehdi Toutounchi, a TV show host, rejects similarities of the story to her personal life, but her argument is mainly about the details of Afrooz’s and her own personal lives, not the general storyline.
Sometimes the film even falls into the trap of creating caricature characters with the intention of criticizing a phenomenon. Of course, characters like the husband, the attorney, and the team manager can be found in the real world; however, how their portrayals exaggerate their worst characteristics. They have turned into stereotypes of jealous husband, opportunist attorney, and hypocrite manager and not much beyond that. The image of the attorney can be also dangerous at a time that many women rights’ activists and attorneys in Iran, like Nasrin Sotoudeh, have been facing imprisonment. This image is probably more true of those who are living outside Iran and make a living by using the oppression of women as an opportunity for their own fame and wealth.
The football scenes are also not well executed. They are too fragmented to get anything out of them. It is hard to blame the director too much for this, as there are limitations on showing women’s sports publicly. There’s also the fact that Baran Kosari, who plays Afrooz, is not really a footballer—even though she lost weight and did training for this film. I wish the director could use this opportunity to either take the risk, show the games in a less fragmented way, and push the boundaries, or use this limitation to make a comment about this unreasonable law, even if subtly.
With all the criticism about this film, it has still managed to create some very good moments; moments portraying how the world would be against a woman who would like to defend her right to pursue her career that her husband suddenly decides not to approve of. There is a moment when Afrooz is brushing her teeth to get ready to sleep with her husband so he would finally let her go. Baran Kosari provides a great performance in that long take, where a supposedly happy action turns into a very tragic one. Definitely her performance throughout the film is the best element of the movie.
Cold Sweat portrays hypocrisy on different levels, from the religious hypocrisy of the husband and team manager, to the hypocrisy of the attorney, and above all, the hypocrisy of the civil laws that are supposed to help the civilians but has made their lives more difficult, especially for half of the society. It is an important film but falls short in transforming the one-line idea into a fully fleshed-out story with fully rounded characters.