Though not quite as bleak as the title suggests, this road-trip flick is no rollicking romp either. Director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses) again mines his rocky, war-ravaged homeland for a tale of Kurdish struggle and survival in the days following the Persian Gulf War. Shahab Ebrahimi, who plays an aging, well-known singer, drags his two sons from Iran to the Iraqi border in search of an ex-wife who left him 23 years ago.
After some surprisingly comedic vignettes, the journey takes a grim turn, as the trio stumble upon abandoned villages, refugee camps and mass graves--the result of Saddam Hussein's relentless bombing and extensive use of chemical weapons. Eliciting affecting performances from his cast of nonprofessionals (all with fascinating faces), Ghobadi manages to balance the inhumanity with humanity. Luckily, the filmmaker doesn't leave us completely marooned in senseless devastation--but edging toward the border of hope.