A Separation (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
Nominated for 2 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Asghar Farhadi).
Won Best Foreign Language Film (Iran).
Watched April 2, 2013.
Even though foreign films, different languages, and subtitles are not my thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how amazing A Separation is. It is starkly honest in conveying its own culture’s weaknesses, as well as its strengths, and the subtlety of its delivery is very moving.
The film opens in a courtroom. A man and a woman, husband and wife, stare directly into the camera as the woman tries desperately to prove that she has grounds for a divorce. Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to take her daughter somewhere out of the country, and she will go with or without her husband. Nader (Payman Maadi), on the other hand, will not leave because his father has alzheimers and he has to care for him. He will give her permission for a divorce, but won’t let her take their daughter.
Because Simin moves out, Nader hires a woman to take care of both the house and his father. Razieh (Sareh Bayat) has to bring her young daughter to work every day, as well as commute ninety minutes each way. Although it is clear from the beginning, the arrangement is more to Nader’s liking than Razieh’s, things soon get more serious as Nader’s father’s health takes a drastic downturn and Razieh feels as if her morals have been compromised.
Although the beginning is slow, and at first I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going, things eventually took a drastic turn. I won’t reveal what that is, except that the family suddenly finds themselves in the courts again, but this time for a much more serious reason than divorce.
The acting is exquisite and almost all of the characters have such a depth and likability that it is hard to root for just one of them. The plot takes some unexpected turns, but also shows a side of Iran that many in the states don’t get to see, which I quite enjoyed. The cultural differences are interesting but are not the driving force behind the film. The story, production design, cinematography, and acting are all forces to be reckoned with, and when it comes down to it, this just might be a foreign film to top the charts.
Even if foreign films aren’t your thing (like me!), I would definitely recommend A Separation for you! You should be aware that it is a drama full of a lot of dialogue (and therefore a lot of subtitles), but I found it completely worthwhile. There is an interesting clash between honesty, religious beliefs, family, and manipulation that pull the whole story together into something great.
[trailer contains some spoilers]