- Running time:
- 123 minutes
- Payman Maadi -
- Leila Hatami -
- Sareh Bayat -
- Shahab Hosseini -
- Merila Zare'i -
- Miss Ghahraii
Middle class Iranian couple Nader (Peyman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are separating. Simin wants to leave Iran to pursue a brighter future for herself and their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), while Nader feels obligated to stay to care for his father with Alzheimer’s. When Simin leaves their home, Nader hires a lower class woman, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to look after the house while he’s at work. But the arrangement doesn’t go as planned, and soon both Simin and Razieh’s proud husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), get pulled in to a heated dispute between employer and employee.
The buzz: A breakout sensation at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” won a Golden Bear—the fest’s top prize—as well as Silver Bears for Best Actor and Actress awarded to the entire ensemble. It’s now nominated for Best Foreign Film from the Golden Globes and Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, with an Oscar nomination widely expected to follow.
The verdict: Every so often a seemingly unassuming foreign language film will separate itself from the arthouse pack with a uniquely accessible approach and cogent vision. “A Separation” is one of those films. Farhadi already had a minor breakthrough with 2009’s “About Elly” (winning Best Director in Berlin and official Oscar consideration from Iran), and the refinement of his examination of Iranian middle class proves an even greater draw on this, his fifth feature film. What makes “A Separation” particularly absorbing is the laser focus on a twisty, tangled story of legal battles, marital conflicts, class friction and volatile issues involving religion, gender and moral choices. Farhadi ushers the audience straight in to this heady terrain with an unpretentious grasp of tension and situational mystery—we watch events unfold that only later take on grave importance as the characters turn to the law to settle thorny arguments over who knew what when, and why certain actions were taken. While the specifics are rooted in Iranian culture, the broad strokes are entirely universal—it’s an intelligent, intriguing and inviting film. So it’s unfortunate that as gripping and direct as Farhadi’s work is, it closes on an unanswered, but not unanswerable, question—a mistakenly self-important touch that tempers the truly elusive nature of what’s come before.
Did you know? Among the accolades “A Separation” has collected so far: Best Foreign Language Film from the British Independent Film Awards, New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review, Best Film from Asia Pacific Screen Awards and BBC Four World Cinema Awards and top five ranking in Best of 2011 critics polls conducted by Film Comment, Sight & Sound, Village Voice and indiewire.com.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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