Writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation was this past year’s recipient of the Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards, and it takes a matter of minutes to see and feel why it received such an honor.
The film opens immediately with deep family conflict—a woman named Simin (Leila Hatami) is petitioning for divorce before a judge from her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi). The reason: they are in disagreement with moving abroad; Simin wants to leave Iran for a better life with her family intact (they have a preadolescent daughter named Termeh), but Nader does not want to leave because of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father. There are no clear-cut roads to take considering this family’s situation, and their conflict is only just the beginning of the film’s engrossing story. Right out the gate I was drawn in to the film.
The couple comes to an impasse, and as a result, Simin moves in temporarily with her parents nearby, while Nader cares for his ailing father and Termeh (who chose to stay with her father to try and prevent the couple’s separation). Soon enough, Nader hires a caregiver, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to watch after and tend to his father while he works. Ultimately, though, tragedy would strike and conflict would escalate all the more between the separated couple and Razieh and her husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini).
A Separation grabs you immediately and never lets go with its running themes of emotionally charged family turmoil. All of the actors involved in the film are excellent here. The marathon of conflict between all the characters is portrayed very vocally (as the opening scene between the couple before the judge vividly shows), and in turn the story resonates all the more powerfully—which speaks highly for Farhadi’s direction and writing, and the actors’ stellar performances. What makes the film stand out all the more is its portrayal of Iran not as a stereotype as some films have done, but as a nation in which decent people face the same dilemmas and consequences of right and wrong as anyone else in the world. The moral challenges the film presents echo deeply and the film satisfyingly does not provide easy answers or obvious solutions for anyone. The film meaingfully says a lot about not only the heartbreaking dramas of familial conflict, but also about truth and the power of religion as well.
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, A Separation is an unforgettable and overall superb film. It is one of the best dramas I’ve seen and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
5 out of 5 stars
About A Separation:
A married couple in Iran conflict when it comes to deciding whether to move away to another country to improve the life of their preadolescent daughter or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.
For more on A Separation, visit the Sony Pictures Classics Web site.