A Separation

Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi.
Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Babak Karimi, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi, Shirin Yazdanbakhsh, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zarei.

“What is wrong is wrong, no matter who said it or where it’s written”

After About Elly and The Salesman I’ve decided to complete my Asghar Farhadi trilogy by ending on probably his most widely received and critically acclaimed film, A Separation. By winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 2011, this is arguably the film that brought Farhadi a lot more global attention. That said, it’s not just because it won the Oscar that suggests it’s a good film, its because it’s a great film and the Academy would’ve been fools to ignore it. This film showcases Farhadi at the peak of his powers when it comes to assembling a narrative with great depth that explores numerous important moral complexities.

Plot: Husband and wife, Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are faced with a difficult decision on whether to leave Iran and give their daughter a better life or stay and care for Nader’s father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. As they cannot see eye to eye, the couple decide to divorce. In the aftermath, Nader hires a young woman Razieh (Sareh Bayet) to take care of his father but he doesn’t know his new maid is not only pregnant, but also working without her unstable husband’s (Shahab Hosseini) permission. Soon, Nader finds himself entangled in a web of lies, manipulation and public confrontations.

As he has consistently delivered throughout his films, Farhadi has an uncanny ability to have you believe that his films are about one particular subject before pulling the rug from under you and taking his stories in a completely unexpected direction. In the case of A Separation, I believed it to be about a couples problems with emigration. And that’s exactly how the opening scene begins. But that’s it. This issue becomes secondary to a plot development that occurs around 40 mins into the film and it’s this very reason that you should attempt to go into Farhadi’s films with little prior knowledge of the narrative and allow his stories to unfold before you. They’re a far richer experience as result. Needless to say, I’ll be avoiding the plot development in question but suffice to say that this is a very personal familial melodrama that despite looking at the particular difficulties of Iranian society, it also posseses universal themes. The characters of Farhadi’s film face everyday issues as he explores the different struggles of generation, class and Farhadi’s regular exploration of religion and it’s close relationship to a male dominated society. The themes may be heavy (and so is the drama surrounding them) but Farhadi makes it all very accessible and, most importantly, thoroughly rich and rewarding.

If truth be told, Farhadi’s films are so simplistic and minimally delivered that most directors would struggle to hold your attention but in Farhadi’s hands he makes it seem effortless simply by making it authentic. They’re delivered with such attention to detail and a remarkable handling of pace that they’re intensely powerful. They’re real quality drama’s with fantastic writing and equally fantastic acting.

Originally a playwright and theatre director Farhadi knows how to tease outstanding performances from his cast. His regular actors Peyman Moadi and Shahab Hosseini once again make appearances and like their previous collaborations deliver very strong work. I’m not well versed in Iranian cinema but it’s no surprise to hear that Moadi is a respected actor in his native country and Hosseini is no less his equal. With Faradhi now approaching a forthcoming film starring, husband and wife, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, it now looks like he’s breaking into the western market and I can only hope that Moadi and Hosseini can follow suit.

I’ve deliberately kept my trilogy of reviews concise for two reasons. One; to prevent from giving away more than is necessary and two; because I felt like I was repeating myself. It difficult to do three reviews of Farhadi’s work without mentioning the same things over and over. That’s simply because Farhadi’s style is prominent in each of his films. It’s the narrative twists that make them stand alone but his themes, his pace and his directorial approach is all very much the same. Although this might sound repetitive, it’s far from it. It has an intoxicating effect and after three in a row I’m still craving more.

After this trilogy I am now a self-confessed Asghar Farhadi devotee. His films bring a genuine look at society with real people facing real problems and there’s few that can capture these stories with such skill and riveting handling. This film, like his others, can be distressing and awkward but it contains a passion that’s real and profound. This is a masterful film from a masterful writer/director.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Not that Farhadi needed such praise from the west but this film came with an abundance of it. Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris won the Academy Award for best original screenplay over this film but Allen himself said that A Separation was the best film of 2011. Jake Gyllenhaal said that he loves this movie too much and that Asghar Farhadi is one of the most influential directors of the past 20 years. It’s been publicly praised by both Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt and the late great film critic Roger Ebert considered it the best movie of 2011.

14 Responses to “A Separation”

  1. Well done, Mark. You seem to like the last installment the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review Mark. I’m a huge Farhadi fan myself, and this is undoubtedly his finest work. You’re right, Farhadi is such a profound writer, and he’s one of the few filmmakers capable of portraying every character in a sympathetic or relatable manner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Charles, good to hear from you and good to hear that you’re a Farhadi fan as well. This is a wonderful piece of work and Farhadi makes it all look effortless. I was hugely involved in the characters’ lives and it was a deserved Oscar winner. Outstanding stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVED this film. It’s one of my favourite representations of a father-daughter relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an amazing film. It felt like I was really watching a real family and not just a movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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