What happens when a child falls for his mother’s secret lover?
‘Mani’ is about a 12-year-old boy coming to terms with his burgeoning puberty and sexuality while navigating a series of male-dominated environments in contemporary Tehran. The film is completely from Mani’s perspective as the story revolves around an unusual love triangle between Mani, his chauffeur, and his mother.
Read on to know more about ‘Mani.’ Fair warning though, spoilers ahead.
Mani is a boy on the verge of puberty and like any other boy finding out that his body’s changing, he starts shaving the hair growing on his arms in the shower. Later in the classroom, Mani spends his time staring at the more grown-up boys playing basketball on the court outside. Moments later, a classmate suddenly grabs him and leads him to the laboratory despite his initial protests that he needs to use the toilet first.
Inside the laboratory, Mani starts stripping and puts on swimming goggles. Mani walks by the swimming pool in his bright yellow swimming trunks and tests the waters. A man comes up behind him, kicks him into the pool, and then jumps in to follow Mani. It’s all in good jokes though because the man patiently teaches Mani some tips and techniques for swimming after.
Later, it is revealed that the man is Mani’s family’s driver and a reckless one, too, as they speed through the streets with Mani in the shotgun. Mani seems to be used to him though, with him even rebuking the other cars for being in their way. The driver tells him it’s the expensive car syndrome and then proceeds to tell him about how when he was younger, he and his friends would come to more uptown neighborhoods on a motorbike to break the mirrors on every expensive car they saw.
Mani seems fascinated by his story and even more impressed when the driver lights up a cigarette, spits out his gum, and starts smoking. Mani reaches over to grab the stick from his mouth and inhales a smoke, albeit unsuccessfully. The driver snatches the stick back from Mani and after a while, wipes Mani’s neck with something. Mani smells it and recognizes that it’s the driver’s perfume. Mani remarks that their car always smells like the driver which is the only way the vehicle won’t reek of cigarettes. Regardless, Mani tells him that he smells good.
Mani unbuckles from his seat and goes to the backseat. He takes out something from his bag and immediately whines to the driver, even wrapping his arms around the driver about his iPad not working because it got wet. Mani cutely asks to go to the Apple store (and the supermarket for some chocolate) but the driver tells him he’ll bring him to the store tomorrow after swimming because he’ll have to take Mani’s father to the airport later that night. Mani replies that they don’t have swimming lessons tomorrow so he insists they go now. The driver declines but Mani bargains that he’ll ask his father and he’ll even accompany them to the airport and get his iPad fixed. The driver says no and that he’ll bring Mani the next day instead. Mani begs him again, and the driver relents and tells him that if his mom agrees, he will. Mani smushes his cheek into his and reminds him to drop by the supermarket. The driver stops and gets off to buy Mani his chocolate. Meanwhile, Mani takes the gum that the driver spat out and puts it inside his gumcase.
After arriving home, the driver and Mani’s father immediately leave for the airport. Mani, on the other hand, takes out his gumcase which has several used gums inside. He takes out the newest one he got hours ago and sniffs it before eating it and lying down on his bed.
Later, Mani and his mother lounge in the living room, with Mani watching the television while his mother paints her nails. She receives a text message and leaves the room, leaving Mani alone. Mani takes the nail polish and plays with it as he watches the television.