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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Review - A Separation

A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) (2011)
Starring Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, and Kimia Hosseini
Directed by Asghar Farhadi

From the opening scene of A Separation -- a long, unmoving, single take of an Iranian couple in a family court discussing the wife's desire for a divorce from her husband -- I knew that this narratively simple story was going to pull me in with some winning performances.  Even watching it on a screen the size of my hand and surrounded by strangers on an airplane, Asghar Farhadi's Academy Award-winning film drowned out my less-than-ideal moviegoing atmosphere and fully captured my attention.  This Iranian film -- which I was incredibly wary of seeing when it was at the local arthouse for fear of boredom -- has managed to become one of my favorites of 2011.

With conditions in Iran worsening, Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to take her eleven year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) and leave the country.  However, unable to convince her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) to come with her and abandon his Alzheimers-inflicted elderly father, Simin files for divorce.  When the judge fails to grant her request, Simin moves out of their house causing Nader to hire Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to look after his father while he is at work.  With her family's income hurting, Razieh keeps her job a secret from her husband (Shahab Hosseini) since Muslim customs state that no woman shall be in a house with a another woman's husband without her own husband or another woman present.  Unfortunately, a series of small events balloon into something much more major and a seemingly "innocent" separation of a husband and wife could lead to a tragic set of events for a father trying to do his best to provide for his fracturing family.

Admittedly, I knew very little about this movie going into it and that's why I've attempted to leave the summary above as vague as possible.  It's not that there are surprises around every corner -- the story is actually quite simple -- but it's riveting in its realism.  There's a naturalness on display here that isn't present in many films.  It is as if we're watching a real family going through a difficult time and that's certainly a credit to the actors who all appear so genuine that they convince us completely of their feelings towards one another -- whether that be compassion or distaste or a tricky combination of both.

It's also extremely interesting to get a glimpse at both a modern-day Iranian Muslim family and the court system of that part of the world.  Granted, were I familiar with either of those topics, A Separation may have lost a bit of its freshness, but since I'm not knowledgable on either of those subjects, it was a bit eye-opening for me and an intriguing look at everyday life on the opposite side of the world.  Still, in the end, I keep coming back to the simplicity and the naturalness of everything here -- the direction, the story, the acting.  Everything in A Separation has an authenticity to it and, as a film, it doesn't attempt to make judgments as to who is right and who is wrong.  Writer-director Asghar Farhadi allows the audience to try and make that determination on their own which, at times, is an incredibly difficult decision to make which further is a credit to his ability to craft a realistic portrayal of family life.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-

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