Smile Politely

A Separation poses questions

A Separation is the kind of movie that you only need to experience once because it’s just that special. The film was written, directed, and produced by Asghar Farhadi. It stars Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, and the director’s daughter Sarina Farhadi.

The film centers around Nadir and Simin who are newly separated parents to an 11 year old daughter named Termeh. The big conflict of the story involves the decision of whether the family should move to another country or stay in Iran and take care of Nadir’s Alzheimer ailing father.

The depth of this picture comes from an incident that occurs early on in the film. This incident brings forth questions of religion, morality, and the importance of survival and self-preservation.

The characters in this film are so rich with detail and emotional frailty that it is nearly impossible not to root for the family suffering from the fallout of this very difficult incident. A Separation knows how to control the emotions of the audience at every turn. The turmoil the family goes through in the film’s two and a half hour running time is nothing short of cringe worthy.

The cast is what makes this film so strong. Peyman Moadi is a revelation as Nadir. He infuses his character with so much conviction that he is in the right for what he contributed to the incident and its very hard not to believe the evidence that he provides to support his claims. Sarina Farhadi steals the movie as Termeh. She is constantly asked in subtle small ways to support her father and grandfather and to watch her struggle to support them while simultaneously trying to keep her family together. It’s downright heartbreaking to watch.

At its core, A Separation is about the value of human life from a culture not many of us cannot say we are familiar with or completely understand. The struggle the family faces in order to support each other is both where the film finds its strongest moments and its weakest. I kept asking myself at certain points of the film when new information was revealed to me why it wasn’t just told to the people who need the answers most.

The story of this film is somewhat universal and that’s where it shines. When you stop thinking about the fact that you are looking at another culture you just see these superbly written characters as people struggling to hold on to what they have: each other.

What makes A Separation so beautiful, though, is that through all of its frustrating and painful moments it is a film that asks questions without giving the audience any answers, because the director wisely expects us to come to our own conclusions about what we learn and know.

A Separation was one of the defining films of 2011 and my favorite film that I saw at Ebertfest. Please go see it at the Art Theater. There are showtimes Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Five Stars


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