When Shahrzad (Francia Raisa; The Secret Life of that American Teenager) left her troubled life in Iran for a quasi-arranged marriage in the City of Angels, she probably thought her life was looking up. But she cannot seem to put the past behind her as new troubles begin to creep into her boring new life. While running away and/or getting a fresh start can be good for a person’s life, Beyond Paradise shows that you may want to be careful not to run into a wall or off a cliff.
Shahrzad’s new husband, Sean (Max Amini), is an aspiring comedian whom she saw briefly on YouTube before they met. Unfortunately, this arranged marriage was ill-conceived as there is no chemistry between the two of them and Sean is a bit controlling, self-centered, and tends to put his wishes above Shahrzad’s. He makes her visit a plastic surgeon for her scars, which she declines, and his stand-up career targets their personal life despite Shahrzad’s disdain for his act. At one point, she sort of compares their marriage to life in Iran.
As soon as Shahrzad arrives, even before she meets her husband, she catches the eye of another man, gardener Sebastian (Ryan Guzman; Heroes Reborn). He works for a neighboring piano teacher, Elana (Daphne Zuniga; Spaceballs, American Dreams), and is clearly a better match for Shahrzad than Sean. Sebastian and Shahrzad both love poetry, music, and dance; and there is two directions in their communications. I would compare this to a love triangle, but there really is no love between Shahrzad and Sean; there’s more of a love triangle (of sorts) between Shahrzad, Sebastian, and Elana.
Social commentary on life in Iran is a major plot point of this film. Shahrzad discusses the way women are treated and flashbacks show the terrible events that led to her “disfigurement”. If you have heard stories about how women are treated in Iran, these scenes may only shock you a little.
Overall, it was a fairly well told, albeit largely predictable, dramatic tale of romance; almost Shakespearian in its execution. I found the characters/acting believable; their likeability depended on their character. The music in the film, including the piano playing and singing from Shahrzad, was very peaceful and relaxing. I may have liked to see more of Sean’s stand up because the few segments in the movie didn’t make me buy him as a comedian (which I hesitated admitting because the credits indicate that that is his real comedy that was adapted for the film).