A Separation - ***1/2
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila, Hatami, Sareh Bayat
Review: With foreign films the biggest struggle tends to be understanding where the characters are coming from. With so many societies being so different around the world some things are certain to get lost in translation. For this reason the majority of foreign films that are successful are the ones that play on universal themes that can be understood no matter what the culture.
With ‘A Saparation’ the themes at play are universal to all, even if there are some slight cultural differences that can be obstacles at different points. At its heart the film is about family and the struggle to keep up with the evolving family dynamic in a culture that hasn’t embraced the same evolution.
From the beginning we immediately see that all characters are flawed. ‘A Separation’ does not try to make one or the other out to be a villain. It merely presents a picture of imperfect individuals trying to make things work. The fact that they can’t only shows their humanity, not any sort of underlying cruelty or evil nature.
While the parents of this family are separated, it does not appear that is the act the title is referring to. The majority of the movie takes place after an accident happens outside the apartment of the family. With the mother Simin (Hatami) leaving the household there is nobody left to watch Nader’s (Moadi – the patriarch) father. In order to continue working, Nader must hire someone to help. He hires a woman to be there all day and take care of his father along with performing house work.
Eventually, their relationship sours and results in a huge confrontation. Nader fires her, insinuates that she stole from him, and asks her to leave his apartment immediately. When she refuses he pushes her out the door. She then falls down a few stairs and we later find out that she lost the baby she was pregnant with.
What follows are the lengthy court procedures to determine if Nader was at fault and therefore culpable of murder. In the process Nader’s family continues to fall apart and he tries to find a way to keep his relationship with his daughter strong, while also proving his innocence.
This is where, at points, the movie can lose the audience. Not for any reason that is a fault of the filmmaker’s, rather due to cultural differences. There are undertones of class and religious separations between Nader and the woman that used to be his employee. As opposed to being stated, these are implied differences. While one eventually understands how things are, it takes a little bit and can detract slightly from the film. Again, this is not a fault of the filmmakers but of cultural differences. The filmmakers were making this for an Iranian audience and should not be expected to explain things for American’s that choose to see their film.
The performances here are what really make the movie. The settings don’t change much but each character is incredibly believable and realistic. Each character is sympathetic in their own way. While they may make mistakes and do things they wish they could take back, none of them are evil. Everyone is a product of their circumstance and they’re trying to do the best they can with what they have.
What ‘A Separation’ provides is an incredibly complex yet interesting view into another culture. Through this we also see that there are some things that transcend culture. Every family deals with the pressures of everyday life. Nobody is safe from being human and experiencing failures while dealing with – and trying to overcome – their failures.
That is what this film is about. There are multiple separations in all cultures. Societal, class, religious, etc., all things that provide hurdles for us get over in our lives. Life is about dealing with separations and making sure they never get too far apart so that we can’t bridge the gap. The worst thing that can happen is losing touch with our own humanity. This is the struggle that we fight everyday and that is universal.
Overall, I would say this is definitely worth your time.