A Separation

Written by Peter Lehman
Edited by Dorrin Gingerich

A Separation, the Oscar-winning foreign film about an Iranian family, begins when the parents decide to part ways. Nader Lavasani (Peyman Moadi) feels duty-bound to care for his father, who has been stricken with Alzheimer’s, but his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), wants to leave Iran in hopes of a better future and more opportunity for their daughter. When the two separate (not yet formally divorced), Nader, a banker, hires a woman to take care of his father while he goes to work each day. Soon a dispute arises concerning her treatment of Nader’s father. Relations between Nader and his wife and daughter become even more strained when the family faces a lawsuit brought by the hired woman after the altercation. To tell more would be to forfeit some of the experience. I wouldn't call it a typical mystery, but a big part of the film’s appeal is finding out exactly who did what, i.e. what happened and who is at fault.

What Worked - This film’s greatest asset is the empathy generated by each one of its characters. At first, though most characters intrigued me in their own way, I found myself firmly on Nader’s side. As the movie continued, however, I became less comfortable with his actions and more understanding of others on different sides of the central conflict. Each character receives this treatment, acting admirably sometimes, and dishonestly other times. Even so, I never started disliking them when they acted stubbornly or bent the truth. I could so clearly see their goals and understand their situations, that I often found it difficult to say I wouldn't act the same. A Separation succeeds in constructing a situation so complex, yet realistic, that the characters cannot be neatly defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Some movies try for this kind of realism and end up with a cast of demanding, unlikable jerks. A Separation avoids that trap by showing the critical stakes motivating each character, the sacrifice as well as the selfishness. Also A Separation opens a window into Iranian society, an interesting and seldom-seen perspective. Watching the pronounced role religion played in the whole drama was an enlightening, unexpected bonus.

What Didn't Work - As a critically acclaimed foreign film, just as any viewer might guess, it’s rather slow-moving. In A Separation, a pause or a glance can contain just as much meaning as a line of dialog. Excellent, but perhaps not for everyone. Unfortunately, the script also includes a few “red herrings” solely to make us consider certain possibilities; these scenes added to the length, but not to the substance of the film, ultimately.

Overall - A moving and human slice of life, populated by complex characters. The performances and the script draw us into the tale, and we easily resonate with the story of each character. I highly recommend this movie to any one looking for a well-made drama.

A quote from the movie -
Termeh - Didn't you say it's not serious?
Nader - It got serious.

So what do you think? Do you enjoy foreign films?

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