Opponent review – impressive drama about an Iranian refugee in limbo in Sweden

<span>Payman Maadi as Iman in Opponent.</span><span>Photograph: MetFilm Distribution</span>
Payman Maadi as Iman in Opponent.Photograph: MetFilm Distribution

The astute and thoughtful second feature from Milad Alami follows professional wrestler Iman (A Separation’s Payman Maadi), an Iranian refugee who flees to Sweden with his family when rumours about his sexuality threaten his safety in his home country.

On paper, a new life in Scandinavia offers Iman the chance to be his true self for the first time. But freedom is not just a place, it’s a state of mind. And Iman finds it increasingly difficult to reconcile the two conflicting truths of his identity: that he is a husband and a father, and that he is a gay man. Unmoored by the uncertainties of the asylum process, Iman seeks out the one thing he knows: he starts to train with a Swedish wrestling team, bouts that Alami films with a tight, kinetic camera, giving the sequences an abstract, erotic intimacy.

It’s an impressive achievement: not just a portrait of a man at a crossroads, the film also captures the surreal sense of refugee lives placed on pause.