An Iranian garbage collector dreams of being recognized as a great writer like Jack London, Dostoevsky or Tennessee Williams. At first, it's not clear if Shahriyar, who appears easily confused, actually writes the novels and poetry he claims to, though he's quite capable of reiterating rote factoids about his favourite authors.
Director Loghman Khaledia positions himself as an impartial observer, only asking the occasional question to prod Shahriyar into explaining his methods and objectives. With his gruelling work schedule the avid reader is left with little time to put pen to paper and in the few hours between his day and night shifts he blames the howling of his children and general noisiness of the neighbourhood for his inability to be productive.
Khaledia interviews a couple of Shahriyar's coworkers, both of whom demonstrate a fatalistic outlook on life that has no room for the Western notions of entitlement their friend clings to. Shahriyar's wife, who admittedly hasn't read much of her husband's work, and his brother, a former aspiring pilot who's perfectly content with his middle management position, echo this discouraging pragmatism.
As the despairing delusional idealist retreats further into the world of his stories, Moving Up becomes increasingly depressing and heartbreaking. It's painful to watch as his very personal tales, and the lengthy pains it takes him to write them (he's been working on "The Fairy Princess" for sixteen years"), are exposed to the criticisms of a professional writers group and potential publishers.
While he displays signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and a lack of critical thinking faculties, the specific mental illness afflicting Shariyar is never explicitly stated. A bit more time could have been spent exploring the impact his highly religious and judgemental family and neighbours have on him and his wife's sense of self-worth, which would have added more food for thought to this portrait of unrealistic ambition as mental illness than scenes of trivial domestic interactions.
Relatively brief at under an hour, Moving Up casts a compassionate eye on its subject and the irrepressibility of passion but it's emotionally devastating to see a man so desperate to achieve an illusory ideal without any conception of what "moving up," as he puts it, would really mean.
Moving Up screens on Tuesday November 13th, 2012 at 7pm at Workman Arts. (Sheherazad Media International)