What a way to get an audience to sit through till the end of the credits! I’ve been hearing buzz about A Separation for awhile now and since its nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay categories, it was bumped up to the top of my seemingly never-ending must-see list. I’m certainly no stranger to Iranian film as I am a big Kiarostami fan (go and see Ten), but I’m encouraged to check out more of Farhadi‘s films including About Elly, after which, he says, A Separation was “logically developed.” Academy nominations aside, if you’d like a great commentary on human nature and the family, check out my review of and go see A Separation.
Family: the same in every language
Teeming with emotion, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation is an award-winning film and Iran’s official submission to the Academy. A moving drama, A Separation invites a discussion on the topics of divorce, parental delinquency, the justification of life and the consequences of building on lies.
Nader (Peyman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) have reached an end to their 14-year relationship and are confronted with the reality of having to split their belongings including 11-year-old Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director’s daughter and an impressive actor). When Nader is accused of assaulting Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a woman hired to help his father who suffers from Alzheimer’s, a web of lies is created that begins to take a toll on everyone, directly involved or not.
The film was made without government assistance and brings to light the true cultural similarities when it comes to family. Having the freedom to express and with limited to no censorship, Farhadi realistically portrayed Iranian lower- and middle-class familial lifestyles.
The unfamiliar faces of the actors contributed to the realism in the film and kept audiences on their toes, particularly in the final, agonizing three-and-a-half minute scene where Termeh’s parents await her decision of who she will live with. As disappointing it was to not find out Termeh’s decision, audiences are left feeling exactly how Nader and Simin feel: anxiety, impatience and worry.
But the major emotions drawn were the sympathies for the women involved who, with respect to the men in their lives, take many risks to help out. Whether it’s Simin who risks meeting with Razieh’s husband, Houjat (Shahab Hosseini), to barter a settlement or Razieh, who risks her husband’s hand to make money working for a single man, the women find a moral paradox in trying to be both a good wife and strong mother.
The film also exposes and sympathizes with the stereotypes of Iranian men, as in the scene where Houjat’s explosive temper has been blamed for causing Razieh’s miscarriage, not Nader’s assault. Houjat wonders why many are so quick to assume that men just beat their wives like animals.
When Razieh miscarries a son, I half expected the topic to turn to the true value of a male child. However, I was delighted to see there was no mention of any preference between the sexes and both families showed they truly valued their daughters.
The film subtly brings up the topic of what constitutes life as Nader comes close to being charged with murder in the death of Razieh’s 4-month-old pre-natal baby. Also, when Simin tries to convince Nader to leave Iran, she tells him to give up on his father. Since he has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember his son, it shouldn’t matter to Nader if he lives or dies.
With so many social and cultural topics on the table, it’s hard to find an end to the unraveling twists and turns of the plot. Though it wasn’t confusing, it did bring out a bit of anxiety in this critic as the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to dim as each lie spread and each situation worsened.
And, as is the truth in most cases, this difficult story does not have a clear ending in Nader and Simin’s divorce but a cloudy intermission where Termeh is left with the daunting challenge of “choosing” between her beloved parents. Termeh, who bore the weight of her parents’s troubles, now bears the weight of her guilt in having to choose.
Shot in a traditional real-time method, A Separation is a riveting, true-to-life representation of the family arc created by divorce, death, illness, adolescence and most importantly, misunderstandings. Certainly a deserving contender for the Best Original Screenplay category, A Separation will get your moral mind moiling.*Image courtesy of cdn07.film.com.