Movie Review: A Separation (2011)

A Separation (2011)
123 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat

Grade: A

There are many different aspects that make a great film, but no matter what great film it is, they all have a story that is worth telling. A Separation is a great film and writer/director Asqhar Farhadi has quite the story to tell. It’s one that you might not be able to relate to, but one that is undeniably powerful and emotional.

The film takes place in Tehran, Iran and begins with Nader and Simin speaking in front of a judge to resolve their file for divorce. The married couple of fourteen years has an eleven-year-old daughter, Termeh, and they both truly love her. It seems that the family agreed to move abroad (to an unnamed country) to provide Termeh with a better future, but Nader isn’t willing to move at the moment because of his elderly father with Alzheimer’s. This, alone, is a dilemma that has the ability to tear a family apart, but as the movie progresses you understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Though the judge doesn’t grant the divorce, Simin moves in with her parents leaving Nader and Termeh to live alone with Nader’s father. Without Simin home during the day, Nader hires someone to look after his father while he is at work and Termeh attends school. This person is Razieh, a very religious, pregnant woman who lives far away and travels with her very young daughter. From day one, Razieh realizes that the job is too strenuous and pays too little to continue, but she carries on because her and her jobless husband needs the money.

This is just the set-up of the film. The film really starts rolling when one afternoon Nader returns home from picking Termeh up from school to the sight of his father motionless on the floor, his arm tied to the bed and the bedroom door locked. After Nader revives his father, Razieh and her daughter return to the home where Nader accuses her of neglect and theft before firing her. When Razieh is reluctant to leave his home, Nader pushes her out and causes her to stumble down a half-flight of stairs. Later on it is discovered that Razieh had a miscarriage.

The beauty of this movie lies within the characters and the situation, which takes a while for the audience to understand. When dealing with a world that one is unfamiliar with, it’s easy to pass judgment quickly without much thought, but all the characters in A Separation deserve your time and patience. Everyone has a motive for their words and actions and everyone has tough decisions to make. With such a different process of the law and the devotion some apply themselves to religion, I constantly reminded myself of their hardships compared to those in the States.

The arrangements of the Iranian legal system is up-front in the film, playing a big part of how the characters interact with each other. It delivers the problem that the law of any country presents: crimes are never just black-and-white but human feelings are ignored nonetheless. Tying religion into this already difficult process, who does the law believe? If you swear on the Quran then you must be telling the truth, unless you’re a moderate Muslim and don’t mind sinning. Is that the same way as if we were to swear an oath or swear on the Bible?

There are dozens of pieces in play in this drama that makes The Descendants seem like a four-piece jigsaw puzzle. There is the legal process that the two families are involved with, the mystery of what really happened against what is said that happened, but at the core there is a family trying to defy all odds and stay together. It is obvious that both Simin and Nader love their daughter, but both have different ways of showing it. Asking yourself who is right and who is wrong will get you no where if you’re looking for a logical conclusion. The films plays like an observation of the human condition and how modern-day Iran is like any place else, not full of deserts and camel-back riders that might come to mind. At the heart of everything is the lengths that you put yourself through to preserve the things you love. Whether it’s right or wrong, well that becomes irrelevant.


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