3 Faces (2019)

NR Running Time: 100 mins



  • An intriguing road-trip movie through modern-day Iran.

  • Makes some very timely and insightful comments on the role of women in a modern-day Iranian culture.

  • On a 20-year filmmaking ban in his home country, writer/director Jafar Panahi’s latest film, and fourth under that ban, is another celebratory act of defiance.


  • Uses a possible suicide as a plot device, which may be a trigger for some viewers and/or give people a bad taste in their mouth regarding the film’s direction.

  • Some will lose patience as Panahi and co-star Behnaz Jafari find eccentric character after character as they essentially take a road trip through Iran.

  • With near universal acclaim, this is one of 2019’s best reviewed films. With that said, it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and appealing to a non-arthouse audience is going to be a challenge.


Whenever a Jafar Panahi film arrives, it feels like something of a minor miracle.

With 3 Faces, he presents an interesting blurring of the lines of reality, fiction, and political commentary. Playing fictionalized versions of themselves, Panahi stars alongside Behnaz Jafari in a quasi-mystery/ road trip film, beginning with an apparent filmed suicide of a young woman (Marziyeh Rezaei), before becoming something different by the end.

That video haunts Panahi at first, then, because she has been cited by name, he shares the video with Jafari. She leaves the set of her existing film and together, the duo set out to travel to a remote part in Iran, where Rezaei calls home. Both savvy with how film can be manipulated, they are unsure if the girl was successful in the act, or whether the video was sent as something of a cry-for-help.

Along the way, Panahi and Jafari encounter a curious lot of eccentric locals who seem to offer just a few morsels of information to keep them going on their journey. While not a conventional road trip movie, 3 Faces essentially follows that formula, while also looking into the idiosyncrasies that make us all so unique from one another.

For a film with suicidal overtones, Panahi’s film is light and airy on occasion, accentuated by the peculiar folks they cross paths with. Once truths and context are revealed, 3 Faces shifts in tone to something devoutly introspective, and has a lot of direct and forthright things to say about gender roles and expectations, and female representation and agency in a modern-day Iranian culture.

Piggybacking off the opening statement made in this review, Panahi is currently serving a 20-year filmmaking ban in his native country. Famously, his 2011 documentary This is Not a Film, filmed with the director under house arrest, was shot and edited on an iPhone and smuggled out of the country, embedded in a cake, before being premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

3 Faces arrives as his fourth film completed, while under the ban, and somehow, rather remarkably, he continues to be a productive, thriving storyteller. And while it would be unfair to label 3 Faces as an “angry” film, that it even exists at all, saying the things it says, proves to be a defiant response to a ban that has so far rendered him fully able to continue to create and distribute films all across the world.

At times, the film’s deviations and episodic-style vignettes can prove a bit frustrating. However, Panahi’s naturally played fictionalization of himself, as well as similar turns from Jafari, Rezaei and others leaves the film somewhat unpredictable, witty and intriguing with each stop on their way.


Starring: Behnaz Jafari, Jafar Panahi, Marziyeh Rezaei.

Director: Jafar Panahi
Written by: Jafar Panahi, Nader Saeivar
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Kino Lorber