Originally Reviewed – 2/1/2012
In the opening scene of Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, a modern Iranian couple sits before a judge, explaining why they need a divorce. As an audience, it looks as though these two characters are talking to us, explaining their case as if we were judge and jury. She wants to flee to America with her family intact, he wants to stay to care for his Alzheimer’s addled father. Tempers flare and words exchange, but the conversation never turns bitter. Never turns harsh. The love is there but it’s being torn by time and circumstance and as an audience, our hearts start breaking from minute one. This first scene sets the tone for the entire film, a tone that elevates the film beyond the subtitles and low budget camerawork. A heart-rending combination of acting, writing and directing, A Separation is a perfectly made movie, one that film fans need to seek out any way they can.
The upper middle class family A Separation examines consists of Nader, his wife Simin and their eleven year old daughter, Termeh. When Simin moves back in with her parents, leaving the exceptionally bright Termeh with her father, Nader hires a devout woman to care for his ailing father. This leads to a series of circumstances and little lies that escalate beyond anybody’s expectation. The film has a number of fascinating themes running through it, all dealt with honesty and emotional integrity. From the white lies one tells to keep a family together to the minor deceits inherent in keeping your ego intact, the film creates tension from insight, not plot contrivance. This is a personal film at the core and the effects are immediately palpable.
The film also benefits from having one of the best casts you’ll see this year. From the stern nature of Nader (Peyman Moaadi) to the emotionally torn Simin (Leila Hatami), the entire cast is perfectly pitched, creating relatable characters that are easy to root for. Most impressive, however, is the work of Sarina Farhadi as young Termeh. Vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, Farhadi pushes herself to the limit in her performance, creating a sad little center the rest of the cast storms around. The movie is also bolstered by an Oscar nominated screenplay that never wastes a line of dialogue or a second of screen time in telling the story.
When the Oscars roll around, most people go to the bathroom during the Foreign Language awards. These films rarely get to American theaters before the ceremony and the ones that do are relegated to limited release. Two years ago, it was The Secret In Her Eyes, last year it was In A Better World and this year it’s going to be A Separation. Shame too, as most audiences never get a chance to see these remarkable movies unless they hear the winners over the flush of a toilet and think to throw it on the Netflix queue. The sad thing is that A Separation is not only the best foreign language film released this year, it happens to be my second favorite film of 2011, bar none. A wonderfully made film that examines the little lies and deceptions inherent in the unnatural tearing of a relationship, A Separation is a triumph of international filmmaking.
Score – 100%