The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam is a pretty big figure in history, but not many people in America know about him. He lived in Persia in the 11th century, and was a brilliant astronomer and poet. The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam is writer/director Kayvan Mashayekh way of trying to tell a story while telling about Khayyam. The film is a mixed experience. It's a gorgeous looking film (but its low budget shows), but his choice of actors is a bit odd at times, and the emotional resonance of the story is never there. Worse, he tells who Khayyam was, but never reveals why he was important. The story within the story is an account of Khayyam as he grew up, but stops just as Khayyam truly enters a new stage in his life.

The framing sequence takes place in a hospital in Houston. Kamran's (Adam Echahly) brother Nader (Puya Behinaein) is dying of cancer, and telling him the legend of Khayyam. Nader is weak, but feels it is important that he relate the story to Kamran. Kamran learns about Khayyam and his childhood friends Hassan and Darya. As they grew older, they went their separate ways. Khayyam (Bruno Lastra, Code 46, Bright Young Things) became a learned astronomer, studying under Imam Muaffak (Rade Serbedzija, Batman Begins, The Great Water). Hassan (Christopher Simpson, Take 3 Girls, Code 46) becomes a religious zealot, and Darya (Marie Espinosa), the slave girl that both men love, is sold and disappears.

Khayyam's life changes drastically as Turk Malikshah (Mortiz Bleibtrau, Taking Sides, Das Experiment) seizes control of the Persian Empire and asks Khayyam to become his court astrologer. Hassan and his followers do what they can to wrest control from Malikshah, and Darya returns into Khayyam's life. The problem is that as a character, Khayyam is not that interesting. Yes he's smart and noble, but Lastra does not have the personality to make people care. And Mashayekh and co-writer Belle Avery's script is pedestrian and feels a bit amateurish. The framing sequence seems pretty unnecessary, given that Kamran can read about Khayyam in any library. The intent was better, but needs to be fleshed out more.

The acting choices are also a bit odd. Unfortunately, many of Mashayekh's choices are not up to par. Bleibtrau is a good contemporary actor, but woefully out of place in this period piece. Simpson's performance is a series of scowls. The people in the present are better, and as a result help the story (Vanessa Redgrave, The Pledge, Good Boy!, is excellent in a brief cameo). The focus in the present is the ever-present generation gap. Kamran's father tried to assimilate into American culture as soon as possible and resents his son's attempts to delve into cultural and familial history. It serves as a good source of conflict, but upon deeper inspection, doesn't really make much sense. The meaning of the title becomes clear as the film nears its conclusion, and chalk The Keeper as another movie (Smile, Therese) that one wants to like but just cannot.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, English and Farsi with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some mild sensuality and violence, a PG-13.

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