A Separation

A Separation ★★★★★

I love difficult movies that aren’t afraid to be difficult. There’s no justice in this story; subtly, while less religious audiences might not appreciate it, even Razieh (Sareh Bayat) betrays her own values for most of the film. Everyone winds up scarred.

It starts with a separation, then continues with the results. The gulf between secular Iranians and the devout creates problems. Those problems crash into an unyielding Iranian courtroom. “I have no choice,” says the judge, although he later shows that he does. People lie; director Farhadi trusts his audience to develop a complex understanding of the truth without shining a spotlight on every falsehood.

I am left with the image of Nader (Peyman Maadi) half-smiling as his daughter leaves, late in the movie. He smiles because she’s chosen to believe him, regardless of whether or not he deserves it and regardless of the consequences. It’s horrible and it completely encapsulates his arrogance. I rented this because I’ve seen Maadi in two half-decent movies this year, and I wanted to see him in something great. That worked out well for me.

The funny thing is that he doesn’t stand out. There are five actors at the core of this: the two I’ve mentioned, Leila Hatami as Nader’s wife Simin, Shahab Hosseini as Razieh’s husband Hodjat, and Sarina Farhadi as Nader’s daughter Termeh. They’re all so good. As noted, all the characters are full of deeply human flaws and watching them take out their internal criticisms on each other is — you can’t call it pleasant. You can call it great acting.

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