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A Separation

Film #4(one to go)in my SIP ’12 project is the deserved champion(it seems), Iran’s “A Separation”. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, it also garnered the Golden Globe in that category. Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, also scored an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, where stars Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi also captured the Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively. So, it is a highly decorated film—and thankfully it fails to disappoint. With only the Canadian French language nominee “Monsieur Lazhar” to cover for SIP ’12, it certainly appears that the proper winner was selected. Of the previously reviewed three, only Israel’s “Footnote” could claim to be in “A Separation”‘s class, with Poland’s “In Darkness” and Belgium’s “Bullhead”—while very good—a decided step below. With “A Separation”, Farhadi creates a marvellously entertaining character study, that manages to wring universal truths from its uniquely Middle Eastern story. Not that I’m any type of expert on that region but I could easily picture the keynotes of this tale’s situations also being prominent in works from countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but certainly not in France or Spain. The script and direction are deft, and the 2 main performances are superb, while also allowing some poignant character work.               Nader and Simin(Mr. Moadi and Ms. Hatami)have decided to file for divorce over their inability to agree on where to raise their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh(played by the director’s own, Sarina Farhadi). Simin is fearful of Termeh continuing to grow up in a repressive society, while Nader desires to remain in Iran and care for his elderly, Alzheimer’s afflicted father. They are an educated and comfortably living couple, but Simin decides to move back in with her parents when a family court initially deems their differences insufficient to grant a divorce. Nader is then forced to hire a caretaker for his sick father while Termeh is attending school and he is at work. Complications arise when the well-meaning caregiver(Sareh Bayat as Razieh)chooses to tie the ill man to his bed(when she has to attend to an important errand)therefore keeping him from heading out and wandering the streets. When a returning Nader discovers his father on the floor and in distress, a violent argument with Razieh ensues upon her return from her mission. This is when the severity of a “push” out of a door becomes of paramount importance. Turns out that the married Razieh was pregnant, and she miscarries soon after the row with Nader. Nader is charged with murder, and then upon posting bail, has to contend with the increasing volatility of Razieh’s husband, Hodjat(Shahab Hosseini). Soon, a desperate series of interviews take place involving the few eye and ear witnesses to the incident, to decide whether or not the honorable Nader is guilty of a serious crime.               The “action” of this domestic thriller is conducted through the artfulness of its rich dialogue, and the performances from the script’s interpreters is of the highest level. And don’t be taken aback that the work doesn’t concentrate simply upon the couple’s requested end to their union. “A Separation” astutely weaves one of its main conflicts(the care given to Nader’s dad)into the plot and enriches the proceedings in a vast way. Instead of only being a dramatic representation of a relationship ending, it takes on the role of playing like a familial thriller. Also, the attractiveness and likability of its two leads is greatly enhanced by its avoidance of making either character flawless. The platitudes have become routine, but  “A Separation” is truly an intelligent, richly performed gem.       Grade:  A

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