One of the best films of 2011, Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” is an important film everyone should try to see. The film juggles many threads of thought, and choices that may or may not be morally sound. Farhadi wisely leaves audiences to sift through the moral ambiguity.
Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are at a crossroads. They are married, but separated, with an 11-year-old daughter named Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) who is very bright. When the film opens, she is living with Nader, her father. Simin has gone to live with her parents at their house because Nader refuses to join her in moving out of Iran via a travel visa that expires in 40 days, which explains Simin’s urgency to leave sooner rather than later.
Simin wants to move her family to another country in order to provide a better life for Termeh. Nader feels he cannot leave Iran because of his elderly father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) who has advanced Alzheimer’s. Simin does not understand Nader’s judgment that his father should come before their daughter’s well being, so she files for divorce.
Already a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, writer-director Farhadi weaves yet another complication into the story. Nader cannot manage to take care of his father on his own, so he hires a lower-class caretaker, a pregnant woman named Razieh (Sareh Bayat). She quickly becomes overwhelmed with the task of taking care of Nader’s father, and makes a crucial mistake, leading to further crisis in the lives of Simi and Nader.
There is so much to admire about “A Separation,” in which Farhadi provides audiences with a sincere and unflinching portrayal of real Iranian people trying to live their lives one day at a time.
These characters face stark human challenges that people everywhere face everyday: Financial stress, divorce, death and love. In an age when xenophobia still lurks around many corners, this film strips down these crass fears and reveals the humanity that remains. Farhadi’s script is a blessing, and he directs with perfect urgency and subtle grace.
Moadi and Hatami are riveting as a couple in a broken marriage. At every turn, they make decisions, trying to do the right thing, or at least what seems like the right thing at the time. We don’t always see eye to eye with them, but that makes “A Separation” all the more thrilling and sincere.
Farhadi rightfully took home the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film a few weeks ago, and most likely will win the Oscar at the upcoming Academy Awards. Now is a proud time for Iranian cinema.