The Past

February 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”)
Written by: Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”)

A more universal story thematically than his Oscar-winning drama “A Separation,” Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has found another compelling way to dissect the family dynamic in his new film “The Past.” While his follow up doesn’t quite live up to his 2011 film about an Iranian couple at the brink of marriage and having to defend themselves against a serious criminal charge, “The Past” is paid the same attention to detail in the script and written as if the story gave each character its own stage.

“The Past” begins with Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returning to Paris from Iran after four years to finally give his estranged wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) the divorce she wants. Little does he know when he gets there, Marie is living with another man, Samir (Tahar Rahim), who she plans on marrying. As more secrets are revealed by Marie (Samir’s son from another marriage is living at Marie’s home; Samir’s mother is in a coma after a failed suicide attempt), Ahmad tries to wrap his head around Marie’s new relationship with the help of his step-daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), who has her own theories on the complicated matter.

It’s a bit hard to explain exactly what takes places inside the confines of this one home without giving too much away to the viewer. Audiences are better left to uncover facts piece by piece much like they were asked to do during the investigation scenes of “A Separation.” What Farhadi does best is challenge his audience. No scene is left to its own devices and each one becomes more important to the overall story than the last. This slow-boil approach might feel taxing for some moviegoers who would rather be spoon fed information, but for those who like a good mystery to unfold naturally should find Farhadi’s subtle narrative style emotionally satisfying.

A Separation

March 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Peyman Modi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi (“About Elly”)
Written by: Asghar Farhadi (“About Elly”)

Forget everything you think you know about Iran. Don’t let stereotypes and news reports lead you to believe the only important issue in the Middle Eastern country right now is whether or not rogue Iranian scientists are building nuclear weapons while everyone else sits stewing in their hatred of America. In “A Separation,” which recently won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, director Asghar Farhadi shows audiences there might be plenty of differences between us and the people of Iran, but there is no doubt they feel the same pain and have the same concerns as anyone else in the free world would who has children.

Set in a contemporary city of Tehran, the film begins with the troubled marriage of Nader (Peyman Modi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) who have come to a crossroad in their relationship and must carefully decide how to proceed with the rest of their lives. Simin wants to leave the country so her daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) doesn’t have to grow up under the limitations of her home country. Nader is against the idea. His elderly father is suffering from Alzheimer’s, so he wants to stay and take care of him. When the couple separate and Termeh chooses to stay with her father, a series of events occur in the household that could separate the family forever.

With a beautifully-crafted and emotionally-intense script by Farhadi, it’s no surprise the directors gets some of the strongest and most nuanced performances of the year across the board to rise out of the family drama in “A Separation.” This includes Farhadi’s real life daughter, who is an incredible find to play the sweet-natured Termeh. For those keeping score, “A Separation” also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, a distinction no other foreign film has received since 2002 when Spanish director Pedro Almodovar won it for his drama “Talk to Her” and Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron picked up noms the same year for “Y tu mama tambien.”

There’s a reason Farhadi went home this year with Oscar gold for this moving, well-executed, and dialogue-driven masterpiece. “A Separation” is a universal story that allows viewers to make their own decisions when Farhadi lays out all the conflict in front of us. It’s a true sentiment to the trust Farhadi has in his audience, an audience that should span the globe if they’re interested in viewing a heartbreaking narrative with a clear voice from a country we rarely get to hear from in the film industry.