Release Date(s)1991 (December 18, 2018)
Studio(s)Pathe Entertainment/MGM (MVD Marquee Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
Based on a true story, Not Without My Daughter focuses on Betty Mahmoody (Sally Field), a Michigan wife and mother married to native-born Iranian Moody (Alfred Molina). Moody wants to take his wife and daughter Mahtob (Sheila Rosenthal) on a two-week vacation to Iran to visit relatives he hasn’t seen in ten years. Fearing the war-torn country is dangerous, Betty refuses but finally agrees when her husband swears they will be safe and back home in America in two weeks.
In Iran, they are greeted by Moody’s extensive family, and Betty is taken aback by the Islamist strictures and unfamiliar customs of the country, which frighten both her and Mahtob. Moody’s behavior changes as he’s pressured to adopt these oppressive norms, and he announces that he wants to remain in Iran. There’s nothing for him in America and in Iran his skills as a doctor are in demand. When Betty protests, she is subjected to beatings, constant scrutiny by the family, and psychological control. As a woman, she lacks basic freedoms Americans take for granted. She has no money, no friends, and no rights.
Determined to get out of Iran with Mahtob, Betty makes it to the Swiss embassy but is told that as the wife of an Iranian, she is automatically considered an Iranian citizen and has no parental rights over her daughter. Betty is shocked but never gives up hope and never stops trying to figure out how to escape virtual imprisonment and flee the country with her daughter.
This is a gripping melodrama with an excellent performance by Sally Field. When we first see Betty, she’s with her family at an idyllic lakeside in America. This scene contrasts dramatically with the horrific abuse she endures in Iran, constantly fearing her daughter will be taken away from her or she will be killed. Ms. Field, small of stature, is dominated physically by the much bigger Mr. Molina, and the violent scenes between them look frighteningly real. More insidious is how easily Moody slides into Iran’s primitive disregard for women and regard for men as all powerful. The husband/wife relationship deteriorates as they wage an intense battle over the welfare and future of their child.
The visual quality is sharp on this Blu-ray release. Video resolution is 1080p. The color palette is vibrant in the early lakeside scene, with rich green trees and a tranquil blue lake. Color in the Iran scenes is muted – lots of black in the women’s hijabs, various shades of brown in the desert scenes, and hazy Tehran street scenes shot through dust and smoke. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1.
Audio is English Stereo Surround DTS-HD. The balance is effective, especially when Betty watches a large group of men praying in a square below her balcony. Later, a couple of explosions occur, loud and unexpected, vividly showing how death or injury can be inflicted at any time. Available subtitles are in French and Spanish.
Bonus materials include a making-of featurette and 6 theatrical trailers.
Making-of featurette – The film is based on incidents that occurred in 1984 when a mother and daughter spent 18 months against their will as virtual prisoners in Iran. Iran grants few freedoms westerners take for granted. The commentary points out that “Betty finds herself in a situation where America couldn’t help her.” Director Brian Gilbert had to re-create post-revolutionary Iran in Israeli locations. The real Betty Mahmoody comments briefly on her ordeal.
Trailers – The 6 trailers are: Not Without My Daughter, Basic Instinct 2, The Man From Earth, Memories of Me, Windtalkers, and Went to Coney Island on a Mission From God… Be Back by Five.
– Dennis Seuling