Winner of the 2011 Academy Award for best foreign film, ‘A Separation’ arrives on DVD with about as much fanfare as most foreign films seem to get. To be clear, that isn’t very much.
Simin (Leila Hatami) leaves her husband of 14 years, Nader (Peyman Moaadi), to seek a better, safer life out of Iran. The only snag is their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) who chooses to remain with her father. Nader wants to stay in Iran because he has to look after his elderly father who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Simin’s departure leaves a gap so Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to look after Nader’s father while he is at work. Razieh did not get the consent her hot-tempered, and out of work husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) to work, so she is keeping it a secret from him.
One day, Nader’s father wanders out of the house and into the street which makes Razieh chase after him.
The next day, Nader comes home early to find his father on the floor of his room, his hand tied to the bed post, the front door locked and money missing from the house. The elderly man is disconnected from his oxygen and is, initially, not appearing to be alright. Razieh is nowhere to be found. Needless to say, Nader is furious. When Razieh returns, she is upset that Nader’s father fell out of bed and denies stealing money, saying that she had to run to to do something and wanted to make sure the old man was safe.
Nader kicks Razieh out of the house, perhaps a little too aggressively so because after he shoves her out the door, it becomes known that she went to the hospital and lost the baby that she was carrying.
Thus begin a legal drama exploring who is to blame for the miscarriage and what should be done about it. The implications will strongly affect two families on different sides of the socio-economic scale.
The title is a little misleading because while the separation itself sets the events into motion, it isn’t the most obvious form of conflict in the film. This is a very loose legal/social drama. The pride and stubbornness of each character only exacerbates the situation. Some of the characters (especially the men) are a bit more obvious than others with this problem but contributions are made by all, even passively. At times, it is hard to feel for Hodjat because of his threatening approach. At times, it seems like Nader is in the right and was justifiably angry, but the ambiguity with him was whether or not that he knew that Razieh was pregnant.
Simin seems to be the most objective of the characters though she isn’t blameless. Without her leaving, Nader wouldn’t need to hire a stranger. Razieh’s strict adherence to her religion creates some dilemmas, as well.
For a film as talky as it is, this actually is riveting. Facts and deceptions and alternate perspectives are revealed in almost every scene. This is like ‘Rashomon’ without strictly recreating the same scenario over. The two hours fly by and there is nothing wasted. The children are actually good actors here and their characters make some very significant contributions. Hooray!
Iranian culture, religion and law are all on display here. The legal system seems to be a little less formal than here in the good ol’ United States, but much of their daily life doesn’t seem to be that far removed from us despite what the news might say, otherwise.
The film ends on the perfect scene for the story. Period. It’s a little unfortunate, though besides the point, that one big question is left unanswered. You can probably assume what happened in this instance, but it’s not definitive and could have explained a lot in the story. No biggie, though.
Special features include: commentary, an evening with writer/director Asghar Farhadi, and a feature
For those who give it the time of day, ‘A Separation’ promises a very thought-provoking story full of moral dilemmas. Your allegiance may shift from character to character which only goes to show how good the film is in all aspects.
Reserve this for a movie night where you want to tackle heavy subject matter. It will likely exceed your expectations.
Rated PG-13 123 minutes 2012