The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi)

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Written by renowned director Abbas Kiarostami and directed by his former assistant, The White Balloon is a thoroughly charming, if rather slight, Iranian film about a little girl's struggle to buy a fat goldfish for the family's New Year's celebration. Her adventures along the way are alternately, and sometimes simultaneously, hilarious and terrifying; it's a sweet-tempered movie, but there are hints of real menace here and there. Aida Mohammadkhani is quite impressive in the lead role, and her encounter with a couple of snake charmers is surprisingly suspenseful (given Panahi's rather low-key style). Do not, however, ask me what the title is supposed to mean, because I don't know; there is a white balloon in the film, but its significance escapes me.