Daughter directed by Brian Gilbert. Specifically it will discuss all aspects of domestic violence in the film. This film illustrates many aspects of domestic violence, indicating that violence and abuse take many different forms, and can exist in even the "happiest" of homes. Domestic violence is a threat facing many families, and this film shows that violence is not the only form of abuse; there are many different types of emotional and mental abuse that still can leave lasting scars on the victims.
The film opens in 1984 with the seemingly happy family of Moody, Betty and Mahtob Mahmoody, a family living in Michigan. Moody is an Iranian doctor, and Betty is his wife. Mahtob is their young daughter. They seem extremely happy and well-adjusted -- not the kind of family that would endure any kind of domestic violence or abuse, but that begins to unravel as the film continues. Moody convinces Betty to travel to Iran for a two-week vacation. She is very nervous about the trip to the Middle East, but Moody swears on the Qu'ran that everything will be fine, and she agrees to the trip. As the deadline for their return approaches, Moody informs Betty that they are not going home, and that he never intended to go home, and this seems to be where the abuse started, but really it started in Michigan, before the trip.
Moody lied to Betty, and even swore on his holy book that everything would be fine, but that was a lie, too. Lieing is the first part of abuse, because it pushes the family apart and reduces the trust the partners have in one another. Betty could no longer trust her husband, and if he lied about the trip, what else has he lied about in the past? This is the beginning of a very emotional and abusive relationship, one that has no hope of survival, because the husband and wife are at such odds with one another. When Betty objects to staying in Iran with Moody's extremely conservative Muslim family, his behavior changes dramatically. He becomes violent and takes away her credit cards, money, and passport, so she has no way to contact her family or get away. She also finds that she is an Iranian citizen because she married an Iranian, and that the Swiss Embassy cannot help her. She also finds she cannot leave the country without Moody's approval, and that if she divorces, she would have to leave her daughter behind, as Moody would get sole custody automatically. She is alone and afraid in a foreign country, and that is extremely abusive. This kind of mental abuse is as hard as physical abuse on a person, and the film illustrates Betty's anguish and fear at her treatment. She is fearful and must do whatever her husband and his family say, from dressing as a Muslim woman, to keeping away from all other Americans.
Although at first Moody's behavior seems uncharacteristic, there are hints that he has a violent nature throughout the film. For example, before he tells Betty they are not going home, he gets up very early one morning to pray, and Betty asks him not to. He berates her and mentally abuses her and she sees a side of him she has not seen before, and he becomes much more intimidating and abusive, and extremely controlling, without any regard to her or her needs. He tells her that she is in "his country" now, and begins to control every aspect of her life, another very abusive action.
He will not allow her to contact her family after an initial phone call, and for quite a while, she is not allowed to leave the house, until she gains the family's "trust" by not "abusing" it. She is allowed to go to the market, where she begins to formulate a plan for escape. Moody becomes increasingly violent, and even hits her sometimes, and essentially she is a kidnapped prisoner in his family's house. His family does not support her, which is really another form of abuse because they allow it to continue and do nothing to stop it or her situation, and so, his family can really be seen as abusers and supporting the abuse, as well.
She still wants to please him in some way, so she submits to the abuse, dresses like a Muslim woman, and even expresses an interest in becoming a Muslim to gain his trust and to stop the physical and mental abuse. He continually tells her she is being watched, that she is a prisoner, and that he will "kill" her if she attempts to escape. Her reaction is to meekly submit because she fears for her life and for the upbringing of her daughter. As the abuse continues, she becomes more and more depreessed, and that seems normal, because abuse of this type is so demeaning and debilitating, and she has no one to turn to for emotional support.
To control her, he beats her and becomes increasingly violent, and the rest of the family accepts it as normal, which is part of the problem. This violence against women is accepted in the Muslim world, and so it creates more violence and abuse against women, because it is expected and accepted. In America, Moody's behavior would not have been tolerated, and he learned how to modify it, but in Iran, his behavior was an accepted way for a husband to treat a wife, and so, Betty is doomed to suffer abuse throughout her stay in the country.
The abuse he piles on Betty affects their daughter, too. In fact, Moody steals the child and uses her as a weapon against his wife. She becomes traumatized and afraid because of the abuse and the relationship between her mother and father, so the abuse effects her negatively, too. She has to attend a Muslim school, and Betty is allowed to go to the school with her to help her adjust, but the school knows that Betty cannot use the phone or leave with her daughter. He allows her some freedoms, but keeps her on a very short leash, continuing his control and abuse of his family. Betty attends a school to learn about the Qu'ran, and meets another American woman married to an Iranian, and they become friends. Another espisode of violence occurs when her new friend tries to mail a letter for Betty to the embassy. Ellen's husband beats her and berates Betty for going against her husband's wishes, indicating how men feel obligated to beat their wives for any infraction in this culture.
Things get better, and Betty is allowed out of the house to go to the market, where she meets a shopkeeper who eventually introduces her to a group that help American women in her position. Moody will allow her to go back to the United States for a visit, because her father is ill, but he will keep their daughter as a "hostage" to ensure Betty returns, and brings back all of their assets from the United States. When she objects to this arrangement, he slams his fist on the table and walks out, another allusion to his violent and controlling nature.
Throughout the film, Moody illustrates many of the classic abusive traits that can occur in people. He seems like a happy, well-adjusted man, and they seem like a happy family. However, in tense or emotional situations, he reacts with abuse and violence, and he must retain control over those around him. These are all traits of an abusive personality. Whenever Betty shows any sign of fighting back or not agreeing with him, he becomes violent and abusive to maintain his control. He is not above using his daughter as a weapon, which creates fear and an abusive relationship with her, as well. The abuse continues because women have no rights in Iran, and there is nowhere for them to get away from an abusive husband, and because he isolates Betty and does not allow her any emotional support, which is just another form of abuse.
This film illustrates that emotional abuse can be just as devastating (even more so, sometimes) than physical abuse, because it can continue for so long and because it becomes so prevalent that the victim seems to never be able to get away from it. Betty has nowhere to turn for emotional support, which is even more devastating, and Moody knows that and keeps her isolated as yet another form of control. There is no shred of trust left in the marriage, and there really is no marriage left, and that is the result of the physical and mental abuse. It is difficult to care for someone who would treat their partner like that, and easy to see why Betty would be so determined to leave.
She does manage to get away from Moody, and gets their passports so she and her daughter can be smuggled out…