Film: A Separation
Cast includes: Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami (The Deserted Station), Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseni (About Elly), Sarina Farhadi
Writer/Director: Asghar Farhadi (About Elly)
Genre: Drama (2011)
It isn’t that Nadar is a bad person… it’s that Simin wants to leave Iran to start a better life, but Nadar won’t come or give permission for Simin to take their daughter. And that’s why she wants a divorce. She tells the judge that their visas are running out, but Nadar “uses his sick father as an excuse” “He’s not my excuse,” he has Alzheimer’s. When Simin decides to move back to her parent’s house, Nadar needs to find a housekeeper to help with his father… who needs constant looking after. Perhaps if there were other job candidates, Nadar wouldn’t have hired Razieh. She has reservations about many of the job requirements… but she needs the job and reluctantly agrees to accept it.
Not only is the job physically demanding, there are issues that Razieh isn’t prepared to handle… like what to do when Nader’s father soils his pants and can’t change and wash himself without help. Razieh is a strict Muslim and has to call a religious adviser to find out if it’s a sin to help get the old man cleaned up. Razieh would quit the job if she could, but with her husband out of work, she can’t. We notice that it’s not easy to figure out if a woman is pregnant under a Hijab and chador, but as Razieh attempts to manage some of her duties, we see that she is indeed pregnant… and that seems to be one of the reasons she’s having trouble handling the job. It’s not easy to take care of a grown man who needs constant attention, and Razieh makes some serious mistakes. Perhaps Nadar would have been more understanding if he weren’t so upset about what he believes to be negligence… words are exchanged and tensions escalate. “She says you hit her.”
The beginning of this film is deceptively simple. But as the plot thickens, it becomes much more complex. There are tensions between Nadar and his wife… and Razieh and her husband. From there, tensions spread. And before long, everyone is in court, and there are serious charges to be answered about who is to blame for the things that went wrong.
This is a tight, exquisitely rendered, fast moving study of human behavior with issues of class, sexism, religion and pride. While we’re tempted to choose sides, we soon see that no one is totally right or totally wrong. The arguments are layered and nuanced. For those of us reading subtitles, there are times when it’s difficult to keep everything straight. But it’s not hard to follow the gripping emotional push and pull. And while many of the specifics may feel foreign, there’s a lot here for American audiences to relate to.
4 popped kernels
An emotionally gripping drama with issues of class, sexism, religion and pride
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking
One of the best films I've seen in many months. Superb direction.
--Donna in NYC