Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are discussing a divorce. They are separated, something that does not sit well with their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). From there, things get even more complicated, incidents and actions affecting not just their lives but those with whom they share them with, as well.
Hereís what I wrote about this film back in January:
ďA Separation is a puzzle. It is an interpersonal mystery of heartbreak, love, family, commitment, truth, lies, faith and responsibility, each overlapping on top of the other in a way that is dexterous, multifaceted and, most of all, real. The movie is an honest examination of a marriage, of life itself, in flux, showcasing a foreign world that ends up being as intimate and as close to home as any so many of us are currently living each and every day.
The movie begins with Simin (Leila Hatami) and her estranged husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) sitting in front of an Iranian judge discussing a potential divorce. She wants him to accompany her out of the country, and even if he refuses to go she wants to take their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) with her. But he wants to stay, needs to take care of his Alzheimerís afflicted father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), and Termeh refuses to leave with Simin if Nader doesnít decide come along, too, the young girl eager to do whatever she can to keep her family together.
Things fracture in a multitude of ways from there. Simin cannot leave without her daughter but she cannot remain with Nader so she moves in with her parents. Nader cannot take care of his father on his own, hiring the pregnant Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to supervise him during the day while he is at work. Razieh struggles with the task, both her condition and her religious beliefs making what is require of her far too difficult for her to continue in the job. Nader agrees to hire Raziehís husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) to take her place, but when heís but in jail for failure to pay his debts the wife must clandestinely continue her nursing duties until he is released and can take over.
When everything falls apart, and it does fall monumentally to pieces, all of the human elements at work in A Separation begin to collide in a way thatís beyond fascinating. Mistakes are made, lies are told and truths are revealed. Reality bends and bleeds with relationships being put to the ultimate sort of test. The mysteries at the heart of this drama are so personal, so visceral, so unshakably genuine they could almost drive a person mad mulling over all of their innate intricacies.
What is so truly astonishing about writer/director Asghar Farhadiís feature is how universal it is. Simin and Naderís breakup could be just about anyoneís of any nationality in any corner of the planet. Iíve met these people. Iíve shaken their hands and had long conversations about the weather or the current state of the Seattle Mariners with them. Iíve babysat their kids and bought them Christmas and birthday presents.
But thatís the point, though, isnít it? While the viewer is given heretofore unseen insights into the judicial machinations of Iran, while the setting and the political dynamics might seem alien, while the cultural male-female esthetics arenít always easy to grasp, the central storylines are gut-wrenchingly familiar. Itís easy to imagine just about anyone in many of these same situations, to believe that just about any of us could feel ourselves pushed into a similar corner where we might state the same sort of lies. These people are us and we, in turn, are them, and while their stories arenít beds of wine and roses the rocky canyons theyíre traversing are hardly unfamiliar, making the eventual outcomes all the more astonishing when the central threads finally begin to tie themselves together as one.
Iím leaving a lot unsaid, not revealing what takes place between Nader and Razieh and how their arguments end up affecting those they love. The reason for this is simple enough as I donít want to ruin the surprises. All of these characters overlap and mingle with one another, their issues and problems cycling into the ones being dealt with by the others and vice-versa. Everyone has demons they are facing, have higher powers Ė whether religious or just the woman they still desperately love Ė to deal with, and how they look them in the eye and figure out what to do next is part of the tragic joy this picture revels in.
Iím not going to tell you A Separation is a happy movie, not going to try and convince anyone that Farhadiís familial opus makes anyone walk out of the theatre with a smile on their face or a spring in their step. But it is an exercise in cathartic brilliance, and even if the enigmas facing Simin and Nader are not completely resolved the astonishment I felt witnessing their travails was something beyond extraordinary. Put simply, this picture is one of the great achievements of this or any other time, and in my personal opinion this is the best film I saw in all of 2011.Ē
I named A Separation the best film of 2011. Nothing has changed, my assessment on that front stands. More, Farhadiís film has started to captivate me to such an extent itís slowly creeping up my list of the greatest films Iíve maybe ever seen, and something tells me this is one Iím going to be urging others to experience for themselves and personally treasuring for numerous decades to come.
A Separation is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features Persian DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 as well as a French DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 track and includes optional English and French subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with writer/director Asghar Farhadi Ė A remarkable track, the filmmaker doesnít pull punches and doesnít try and explain the reasons behind everything that is happening. In fact, he urges viewers to come to those conclusions all on their own, instead focusing on the filmmaking process in general and the ways he, the actors and his crew approached the production.
∑ An Evening with Asghar Farhadi (30:42) Ė A Q&A with the filmmaker moderated by Andrea Grossman and translated into English by Dorna Khazeni. Fascinating.
∑ Birth of a Director (7:53) Ė Farhadi on his early years as a director and the passions that drive him.
∑ Original Theatrical Trailer (2:03)
A Separation was the best film I saw in 2011. Itís one of a handful of truly magnificent films Iíve seen this entire decade. I think those two statements say it all.