Connect with us

Movie Reviews

A Separation



Reviewer: Jason Coyle

Released: March 16th 2011 UK)

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami

Certificate: PG (UK)

The deceptively simple premise of this film is as follows: A woman tries to divorce her husband so she can leave Iran with her daughter. The husband refuses to as he has to stay in Iran to look after his dying father who has Alzheimer’s and is need of constant care. But this is just a jumping off point into a startling drama from director Asghar Farhadi.

The title of this film is so heartbreakingly apt. It is shown to have several meanings in this film. There is the threat of divorce for the main couple Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and the pain the dispute causes their sensitive daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Indeed Simin moving out of the house to her mothers is the catalyst for the troubles that befall the main characters. Nader is forced to hire a woman Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to come and look after his father while he is at work. Razieh has her own secrets that she does not share with her employer or her angry unemployed husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), which will have profound effects on everyone in the film.

The work for Razieh is difficult as she is looking after an incontinent old man. In a darkly funny scene she phones the imam to see if it would be a sin to change the old man’s soiled clothes. Her lack of training to deal with a situation like this leads to a confrontation with Nader after she leaves the house and the old man has collapses. The argument that happens when she comes back has repercussions for all the characters.

The skill of this story is that it is told from various points of view. Nobody here is painted in black and white. Faradi shows these people as flawed human beings, struggling with their own problems. Both couple are shown to lie to protect either themselves or their families, and this underpins the whole film. It provokes the thought: how far would you go to protect what you have? The exception to all this deception is Termeh, who is the conscience of the film. She draws the truth about what happened from her father in a very moving scene. The irony of this is that she is then forced to lie for her father in a beautifully tense meeting with a local magistrate.

In fact Faradi’s film is full of superbly humanistic scenes. One in particular stands out: Nader starts to take his father shirt off to try and show the bruises that have been inflicted on him and then realises half way through the shame in what he is putting the old man through. He stops and looks at his father with love and dismay at his own behaviour and starts buttoning up his shirt. It is an astonishingly intimate scene.

The film also covers areas such as class and religious beliefs and the differences between a middle class couple and a working class couple in these regards. It also has a lot to say on gender and the role of the man in modern Iranian society. In fact it is the men who, despite being in control, come across as weak in the film. It is left to the two wives to try and sort out the couples’ problems.

The acting is stunning by the ensemble cast with particular mention of Shahab Hosseini who does superb work with a role that would be the bad guy in any western film. This is a film that should be seen by as wide an audience as possible, not only because it is brilliant but also to restore your faith that dramas like this are still being done at all. Quiet and humane, beautiful and complex, A Separation is a small masterpiece.

Just For You