A Separation

Directed By: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, and Sarina Farhadi

I'm a little late to the game for A Separation.  This Iranian drama has been in theaters for a while now and has had a lot of good buzz.  It's won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.  It's won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  With all this hype, it's the must-see foreign film of the year.  Having now seen A Separation, I completely understand why.

Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are having some issues, and Simin is seeking a divorce.  After getting a visa to presumably move to the United States or some other Western country, Nader refuses to leave Tehran.  His elderly father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs someone to care for him.  Because of this, Nader won't leave the country, nor will he divorce his wife so that she's free to leave.  Simin then does the next best thing and moves in with her parents leaving Nader to care for his father and their eleven-year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).  With his wife leaving, Nader needs to hire someone to take care of his father during the day. 

At the recommendation of Simin, he hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) a poor, deeply religious woman to take on this huge responsibility.  She quickly becomes overwhelmed with her new work in the first two days.  On the third day, the pregnant Razieh leaves Nader's place for a while.  Before doing so, she ties Nader's father to his bed and locks the apartment.  It just so happens that Nader comes home early that day and finds his father unconscious on the floor.  Nader is thankfully able to resuscitate his father.  He gets into a fierce argument with Razieh upon her return that ends in him shoving this pregnant woman out of his apartment.  Razieh falls down the stairs and has a miscarriage later that night.  Out for justice, Razieh and her husband Houjat (Shahab Hosseini) charge Nader with murder.  In the midst of his separation from Simin, Nader now faces the ultimate challenge—staying out of jail if at all possible.

A Separation is a bold, powerful tale from director Asghar Farhadi.  The cast does a superb job as the warring families.  From heated arguments to moments of utter depression, these actors don't miss a beat in conveying the array of emotions each of their characters must be feeling throughout this tragic ordeal.  With great performances from his cast, Farhadi nimbly tackles class and gender issues as well.

What really makes A Separation outstanding is the rich, rich storytelling of the movie.  It's a truly unpredictable film, which makes it a rare gem in the world of cinema.  I like to think of myself as a pretty perceptive moviegoer, and I honestly didn't know what was going to happen by the end of this movie.  I didn't know what the truth actually was.  Farhadi only gives viewers enough information to push the story along and to continue to captivate the audience until he finds that right moment to spring the huge twist that explains everything.  It just so happens that he slyly intimates this twist near the beginning of the movie, and I didn't even know it.  That's greatness.

A Separation is able to connect poignantly with viewers whether they speak Persian or not.  It is a truly awesome film that will stand the test of time for years and decades to come.  I wholeheartedly give this powerful, moving drama a sober rating. Don't miss this one!