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.

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