Married Iranian couple Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are in conflict over the future. Simin wants to move abroad to provide better opportunities for their only daughter, 11 year old Termeh (Serina Farhadi). However, Nader insists on staying in Iran to look after his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who suffers from Alzheimers. Simin is even prepared to get a divorce and leave the country with her daughter, but things get complicated when their new part-time carer, Razieh (Sareh Bayat) leaves the frail old man and goes out. When Nader gets home with Termeh, his father is on the floor next to his bed. The ensuing confrontation with Razieh triggers a dramatic chain of events.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a rare achievement for a foreign language film to be in the running for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, but it's not hard to see why A Separation has that distinction, as well as numerous other accolades and awards. The performances and direction match the sharply observed screenplay, which is layered and nuanced, never settling for the pat answer. Indeed, it avoids answers as much as it can, giving audiences a far more interactive experience than most films.
Family, culture, religion and plain old survival are the ingredients of the story, which seems at first to be a family affair, a conflict about the future of a couple's 11 year old child Termeh (Serina Farhadi). Simin (Leila Hatami) the mother is desperate to give her the opportunities offered 'abroad' - where abroad is not specified. Nor does filmmaker Asghar Farhadi give her an answer to deliver an official when Simin is asked to explain why her daughter can't be educated in Iran. He doesn't have to; we know, as do Iranians.
The husband, Nader (Peyman Moadi) is adamant he has to stay and look after his father, who is debilitated with Alzheimers. From this conflict arises the family drama, but it is escalated when they hire Razieh (Sareh Bayat), the 'friend of a friend' as part time carer for the dysfunctional old man. Razieh has her own woes, including a hotheaded husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) whose creditors have recently got him a jail term. They need the money.
The film's intricate web is woven by the actions and decisions of the characters, some miniscule, some large, but each with consequences. What is riveting about the film is the way every action becomes fuel for the fire of antagonism between the characters. Not even the two daughters are spared: Termeh is the battle ground for her parents, and she is the only one who has real emotional hold over her father. She is ultimately faced with the decision she should never have to make.
The younger Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini), Hidjat and Razieh's little girl, has an ambiguous role as an innocent observer; or is she?
Naturalistic and powerful, A Separation provides a non-judgemental insight into the kind of everyday scenario that can ignite fires of mistrust and hatred between neighbours - whether they are families or nations. Nobody really sets out to do bad things - but they happen, and they are made worse by lies and omissions, fear, prejudice and contempt.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Blame, resentment, conflict and guilt are the consequences of the separation that is described in the opening scene of this thought provoking and powerful drama. One action becomes the trigger for the unravelling that filmmaker Asghar Farhadi explores: secrets, lies and truths are exposed on a backdrop of contrasting religious beliefs, classes and moral codes.
In a memorable, if slightly stilted exposition to an unseen official, an Iranian couple voice their differences, explaining why they want a divorce. It is Simin (Hatami), who is asking her husband Nader (Moadi) for a divorce on his refusal to leave the country for greater opportunities for their 11 year old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, daughter of the director). As Simin readily admits, her husband is a decent man; it is not a break down of their relationship that has brought them to this point, but that Nader refuses to leave his Alzheimer-stricken elderly father (Shahbazi). His father may not know his son, but Nader states his moral standpoint: he knows that he is his father's son. Termeh is the pivot between the couple and ultimately it is she, the pawn, who plays the most important part in its resolution.
This is a story in which the detail matters and it is with meticulous detail that the situation is described when Nader employs Razieh (Bayat), a pious woman with a four-year old daughter (Kimia Hosseini) to take care of his incontinent father. It is immediately clear this is unsuitable work for Razieh, who we learn, is pregnant and vulnerable, and that her short-tempered, out-of-work husband Hodjat (Hosseini) is ignorant as to what she is doing.
It is when Nader comes home early one day, finds Razieh absent and his father incapacitated on the floor tied to the bed that the first major confrontation takes place. Blame rears its ugly head and the domino effect begins as the ramifications of what has taken place and has happened to both parties escalate. Every character is important as the Iranian court system comes into play and minute details become critically important with the two children having a vital role to play. There is disillusionment and fear as the moral questions are raised and the issues of truth are canvassed.
Winner of the Golden Bear, the Sydney Film Prize and Best Foreign Language film at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards, A Separation is well deserving of its many accolades. It's a disturbing film whose performances are painfully real. Unlike the law that depicts its truth in black and white, the nuances of human frailties involving different perspectives and circumstances are far more complex.
Email this article
A SEPARATION (PG)
CAST: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Merial Zare'I, Ali-Asqhar Shahbazi, Babak Karimi
PRODUCER: Asghar Farhadi
DIRECTOR: Asghar Farhadi
SCRIPT: Asghar Farhadi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mahmud Kalari
EDITOR: Hayede Safiyari
MUSIC: Sattar Oraki
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keyyan Moghaddam
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 1, 2012