Movie Review: A Separation

Peyman Maadi and Leila Hatami star in "A Separation"

Keeping up with the film industry can sometimes feel like an exercise in expectations unmet. Oftentimes, our perception of a film is affected by our lofty suppositions of it, more cases than not for the worse. For example, although Moneyball was a perfectly fine movie, I was somewhat let down after finally seeing it as it had been hyped up as an incredible film. However, sometimes a film will come along as a complete shock, rising from the depths of anonymity to the lofty peaks of the Academy Awards. This year’s underdog story comes from an unlikely origin, Iran. The film in question is titled A Separation, and it is undoubtedly one of the best pictures of the year.

A Separation was directed by Asghar Farhadi, a name which foreign film enthusiasts might recognize (Farhadi also directed the critically acclaimed About Elly). However, outside of film circles, Farhadi is relatively unknown. Perhaps this is because he has ardently stuck to his roots, directing films which not only take place in his native Iran, but are entirely in Persian. However, although some may be turned off by the idea of subtitles, they do not detract one iota from the level of immersion that Farhadi’s brilliant script delves into.

The film introduces us to a husband and wife couple, Nader and Simin, who are struggling through a messy divorce process. Simin wants to leave Iran for the sake of their daughter, Termeh, while Nader feels tied both to his country of origin, and to his father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. After Simin moves out of the family’s home, Nader is forced to hire outside help to take care of his father while he is at work. Unfortunately, Nader has an altercation with his newly hired help (a woman named Razieh) which leads to a series of clashes between two families with wildly different beliefs and codes.

The strengths of A Separation lie in Farhadi’s brilliant directorial decisions on whether or not to show certain actions as they occur. Like the film’s characters, the audience is left in the dark on the truth regarding the story’s central incident. As the film progresses, the viewer finds themselves questioning the validity of assumptions they may have made earlier, just as Nader and Simin question their own motives and behavior. The film also raises numerous questions regarding gender, religion, and the law. Although Iran’s antiquated statues are never addressed directly, one cannot help but wonder if Farhadi wrote A Separation as a condemnation of Iran’s precedent of dealing with issues in a unfair and unjust manner.

A Separation has been nominated for this year’s Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay categories. However, it should also have received a nomination for the venerable Best Picture award. Subtitles or not, A Separation is one of the year’s best pictures by far, and should be recognized as such. Forget baseball, Hawaii, clockwork, and horses. A small Iranian drama might just be this year’s crowning achievement in film.

-Ben Klein, Editor in Chief 

Posted by on February 1, 2012. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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