In 1988 Tehran, Shideh’s attempts to rejoin medical school after getting married and having daughter Dorsa are thwarted as a consequence of her politically active history. Her husband is sent off to serve in the Iran-Iraq War while Iraqi air raids draw perilously close to their own apartment. As she is left alone with Dorsa after neighbors and friends flee from a city in chaos, her daughter becomes increasingly ill and seemingly disturbed. Shideh initially dismisses Dorsa’s tantrums over a missing doll, but she reluctantly comes to suspect that they’ve been targeted by djinn—malevolent spirits that steal from those they seek to possess.
Babak Anvari’s ambitious feature debut blends period detail and social critique with a good old-fashioned horror story, crafting a film that is as smart as it is scary. Anchored by Narges Rashidi’s stellar performance, Under the Shadow presents Shideh’s experience as a strong, defiant woman—frustrated by a society that has consistently admonished her for her independence—as she single-handedly battles a multitude of dangers from both the physical and supernatural worlds in order to save herself and her child.