Review: Wise, humane 'Separation' looks at cultural, class differences
At the start of "A Separation," an Iranian couple appears before a judge to request a divorce. Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) have irreconcilable differences: She wants to move abroad before their exit visas expire for the sake of their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). He is unwilling to relocate because his father is ill with Alzheimer's and cannot take care of himself. But Simin would rather break up their marriage than stay put, because she doesn't want her child to grow up under what she calls "these circumstances."
What, exactly, does she mean by that• Writer-director Asghar Farhadi uses uncommon subtlety in "A Separation" to show how the cultural limitations and class differences inherent in any society can lead to chaos and tragedy. This family just happens to be Iranian, which means that when Nader hires a nurse, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to help tend to his father, she must call her religious leader and ask permission before she can touch the old man to help him out of his soiled clothes.
Razieh is also pregnant, but she hasn't told her husband (Shahab Hosseini). She keeps many secrets from him, some more innocent than others. With astonishing insight and wisdom, the movie depicts how the simple decisions we make on the spur of the moment can sometimes have momentous, unintended repercussions.
"A Separation" uses a clean style of storytelling that emphasizes faces and bodies, and right from its opening moments, when the husband and wife plea their cases directly into the camera (they're speaking to a judge who is heard but not seen), the movie presents each character's point of view clearly and fairly -- something difficult to do when no one agrees with anyone else. Halfway through the film, in the midst of a heated argument, Nader does something so unremarkable that we barely even notice. Later, his seemingly trivial act brings criminal charges and the possibility of a prison sentence.
There are no good guys or bad guys in "A Separation": There are only people, trying to do the best they can for their families. The slow inevitability of disaster that starts to loom over the characters -- a disaster that intensifies and grows worse as the movie unfolds -- is particularly fascinating because the crisis is born out of everyday circumstance and ordinary behavior, not some elaborate twist of plot. The movie is precise and exact about its setting, but this story could easily happen to you.
This wise, humane movie wants us to empathize with its characters, and the more we understand their everyday reality, the deeper we'll be drawn into their lives. "A Separation" succeeds so well that the end result is pulverizing. Sometimes, in an attempt to do the best we can for the people we love, we end up wreaking irreparable damage.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- At least $100,000 in appliances stolen from new homes around Western Pa.
- Mercer’s improved defense at shortstop gives Pirates a boost
- 20 improbable Pirates wins in 2014
- Healthy again, Penguins’ Dupuis eager for game action
- Corbett: Downtown project will ‘make a huge difference’ in Pittsburgh
- Arnold man charged after 20-mile chase
- Gunfire plagues New Kensington
- It’s official: Volquez to start Wednesday for Pirates