Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review - A Separation

A Separation, Asghar Farhadi's exceptional domestic drama about the failure of human relationships, and not just marital ones (as the title implies), is among the year's best films.
Simin files for divorce when her husband Nader refuses to move away from Iran. She doesn't want their daughter growing up there, but he insists on staying to care for his Alzheimer-afflicted father. The divorce is denied, but Simin leaves Nader anyway, prompting Nader to hire a woman to look after his father during the day. The new day keeper, Razieh, works for Nader while keeping it a secret from her short-tempered husband Houjat, but an accusation of thievery sets in motion a series of events that suddenly slam both of these damaged marriages into a heated family court case.

One can't help but notice that A Separation is more about the problems affecting all people in Iran than just the characters in the story, but more generally than that, I think the film's painful truths are universal ones. It delves deep into human conscience and exposes the dangerous inconsistencies between our personal moral codes, our responsibilities to model ethics for our children, and the emotional consequences of neglecting those responsibilities.

Farhadi's aesthetic technique is economical but very polished. The careful film editing captures the best of every performance, and there are a lot of them. In fact, there's not a mediocre performance to be found in this movie. Every character is superbly played with authentic dimensionality. It's a testament to how well Farhadi wrote and directed his characters.

The LA critics did well to single him out for their Screenplay award this year, and there may even be a slim chance that the Academy will take notice. Here's hoping. This great piece of work should not merely be content with a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (which it may even need help getting from the executive branch).

**** out of ****

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