- Peyman Maadi as Nader
- Leila Hatami as Simin
- Sareh Bayat as Razieh
- Sarina Farhadi as Termeh
- Shahab Hosseini as Hodjat
An arresting and affecting film that deservedly claimed the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, A Separation is a very intimate and realistically powerful movie from Iran, that is very relatable and surprising in the best possible way. Having heard so much praise for the film upon release, I can know say having watched it that is worth every ounce of acclaim it was accorded.
In Tehran, Simin files for divorce from her husband Nader, as they both want different things. Simin wants a divorce and to leave Iran with the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Termeh for better opportunities, while Nader wishes to stay out of obligation to his elderly father, who is declining in health due to Alzheimer’s. Simin is refused divorce as neither parent can agree, so she moves out for a while. Young and very smart Termeh stays with her father, who is struggling to look after his father and the condition he is in. Termeh hopes that by staying with her father, it will ensure that her mother will come back. With his wife not there, Nader needs someone to look after the house and also his father. Being a bank worker who can’t always be at the house, Nader hires Razieh, a poor woman to take care of his father while he is out of the house. She is actually pregnant and needs to money as her husband was thrown out of a job, but her pregnancy isn’t that noticeable to many. And as Razieh is a timid and very devout woman along with being four months pregnant, it stops her from fulfilling her job of caregiver to the best of her abilities. When Nader returns home one day and discovers his father having collapsed with Razieh nowhere to be found, he gets angry. When Razieh returns, he berates her for leaving his father and shoves her out of his apartment. Events take a dark turn when Razieh suffers a miscarriage and claims that when shoved her, she fell and this lead to her tragedy. Her hot-tempered husband Hodjat argues with Nader and everyone is dragged into this battle of truth and acceptability, even drawing Simin back to help her estranged. Tensions begin to hit boiling point as more accusations are thrown about and the accountability of everyone is called into question, complete with threats. At the centre, Nader and Simin are forced to confront their relationship and the impact it has had on everything that followed.
Asghar Farhadi is the masterful man behind the camera(as well as the script) and his intelligent, thoughtful and tightly woven narrative is absolutely compelling from the opening shot. He constructs A Separation to be a complex film that covers many intriguing themes like gender, resentment and culpability, and he allows us to witness it play out with revealing and moving clarity. Farhadi’s penetrating and perceptive script moves the story along at a riveting pace that allows for the gradual tension among the players in the story, whose lives are irrevocably altered by the choices they make and their feelings. Although an Iranian film that sheds light on life there in various areas, like the labyrinthine legal system and attitudes to religion, A Separation really soars thanks to the universal themes and emotions. The family strife and issues faced by the characters are all ones that most people will have experienced, and as they are presented in such organic fashion, it becomes like watching the lives of real people unfurl. Seriously, there were parts when I felt like a fly on the wall of these characters as the script was so natural and true to life, which really earned my admiration. There is definitely drama in the story that A Separation conjures, but the representation emerges as something human and morally complex( particularly in the examination of how our choices can have unforeseen consequences), eschewing any melodrama or unconvincing histrionics for an intimate approach. Hugely benefiting this style is the fact that all the characters are well-developed and each flawed; in this scenario, there is no easy hero or villain, everyone embodies a lot of different things that have large impacts. The film is devoid of music, which puts you right in the middle of all these escalating events without the need for musical manipulation. Instead, your eyes are glued by the significant building of tension that really is done exquisitely. Honestly, if this film wasn’t a drama, it would have made a great thriller due to the unraveling of events and the feeling of not knowing what will happen to stoke the fires of a combustible situation. Many films could learn a lot from A Separation in how to create something naturalistic and authentic.
The talented cast is on searing and immense form playing the complex and layered characters we encounter and watch as their lives are changed. Peyman Maadi turns in a layered performance of stubbornness and restlessness as a man who is trying to cope but crumbling on top of everything, even before being drawn into the legal proceedings that implicate him. Leila Hatami is immensely soulful and human as his estranged wife; she is blessed with a face that speaks volumes about the character with just a single glance or expression. There is a stalwart fire that burns inside her as the story progresses and she is forced to become involved. Sareh Bayat is quietly moving as the caregiver whose accusations provide the main catalyst of the story as her feelings are kept so under wraps you aren’t quite sure what to make of her, though you can definitely experience sympathy for her. Her role is probably the most difficult and the one that you constantly find yourself switching between trusting and being wary of. Sarina Farhadi( the daughter of the director) is a marvel for someone of such young years, playing the daughter caught in the middle of everything, mainly the separation of the title between her parents. She projects such emotion and honesty into her role and you really can’t help but empathize with the impossibility of her situation as she loves both her parents. Shahab Hosseini rounds out the cast as the irate husband whose threats escalate in the growing resentment and building hatred between families. I can scarcely think of anything negative to say about the acting because everyone is so realistic and convincing.
A deep and thought-provoking movie that questions a lot yet never goes for any easy cop outs, A Separation is a film of the highest quality that really makes an imprint on the audience. Trust me, if you haven’t watched A Separation yet, you simply must as it is worth your time.