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The Mirror

Several recent films -- most notably, "The Matrix" and "The Thirteenth Floor" -- have explored the nature of reality. But none of them have done it as cinematically as "The Mirror."

But after seeing this disappointing Iranian drama you'll probably understand why. Writer/director Jafar Panahi (1995's "The White Balloon") interrupts what is an interesting story midway through to start some fairly pretentious film-within-a-film experimentations.Frankly, that storytelling transition (from straightforward drama to pseudo-documentary) is much too jarring. And worse, the results aren't nearly as thought-provoking as Jafar obviously intended them to be.

Also, for those who believe the film's second half is an actual documentary -- albeit an intrusive one -- think again. There are enough seemingly inadvertent clues to show that it, too, is fictional filmmaking in progress.

The film initially follows a young Iranian schoolgirl (Mina Mohammad-Khani), who becomes concerned when her mother fails to pick her up from school. Several kind-hearted people offer aid or tell her to simply wait at the school. But the impatient girl sets out through the busy (and perilous) streets of Tehran.

Though she finally agrees to let others help her, including a bus driver, the youngster eventually tries to take matters into her own hands. However, she still winds up getting lost.

It's at this point that the story changes focus. The actress playing the girl gets mad at the filmmakers and storms off in a huff. But, conveniently, she still has her microphone on, and the crew decides to follow her, to see where she's headed.

Ironically, she gets lost and refuses the efforts of others -- and, perhaps cruelly, the filmmakers simply record her frustrations.

Admittedly, the premise sounds interesting in concept. However, it doesn't play out nearly that well. And Panahi just drops the first story line without a satisfying resolution despite the two stories' thematic similarities.

Also, the "real-time" documentations, which include all of the traffic interruptions and similar cinematic dead-ends, are irritating. And though we're supposed to sympathize with her, Mohammad-Khani (the character, not the actress) is frustratingly hard-headed, even whiny.

"The Mirror" is not rated but would probably receive a PG for some off-screen violence (overheard).