Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin)

By Sati. Wednesday, February 22, 2012 , , , , , , ,
84/100 (123 min, 2011)
Plot: A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers.
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat

Unable to stay, unable to go.

"A Separation", the movie that is probably going to win Best Foreign Picture Oscar this Sunday, is a compelling and extremely dynamic story of two families - one consists of Nader, Simin and their daughter Razieh. Simin wants to leave the country in order to have a better life. Nader wants to stay in Iran with his family and with his ill father. Both of them have their reasons for their decisions and the inability to compromise will lead them to the titular separation, when despite their bonds and feelings because of the choices they made they will have to follow different paths. Right in the middle of family crisis is 11-year old Razieh who loves both of her parents and must decide which one of them she wants to live with.

The second family is Termeh and Hodjat and their little daughter. Termeh is hired to take care of Nader's father but because of many personal problems and different occurrences she is unable to perform her job as well as Nader expects her to. That leads to the chain of events that eventually will lead two families to the court, forcing them to confront each other and in doing so, confronting their deepest feelings and sense of morality, and seek answers for what's right and what is wrong.

"A Separation" is an extremely well written film - although we see typical family drama here, the pace is so fast and energetic it could just as easily be a chilling thriller. Between very authentic dialogues and the progression of the story where the author cleverly doesn't let us in on all the details, we keep waiting for what is going to happen, because since all the characters in the movie essentially want different things there is no way of telling what will the resolution to the story be.

The movie's strong asset is that the story is quite universal - it focuses on two families and their problems could have just as easily happen in completely different environment, minus certain details specific to Iranian culture. The story deals with problems known to everyone - the conflict with a loved one, the desire to protect your children, the inner compulsion to the right thing. There are however many interesting moments where we get a glimpse at the specifics of the culture, for example when Termeh is calling to check if she can remove old man's pants since he wet himself and she is supposed to take care of him.
The conflict in the movie is what makes it so engaging - it's very hard to chose sides and in the end of the story we are basically left with the inability to decide which of the families should get what they want. Everyone involved where led more or less by noble reasons, even if they used lies or half truths in order to achieve their goals That inability to decide who is more worthy of the happiness and peace, places us in Razieh's position who needs to decide who to chose and has been struggling with the decision throughout the progression of the film. The ambiguous ending is perfect since its leave the decision to the audience and it's up to us to reflect on the story we've just seen and to wonder about what we would do if we were on characters' places.

The acting is all around wonderful but for me the standouts were two women who played Termeh and Simin - the first one is played by Sarina Farhadi who gets to play the most ambiguous character in the movie - on one hand she wants to protect her family, especially her little daughter and she wants to do a good job caring for Nader's parent. But on the other she is willing to cause harm to the other family, unable to stand up to her husband living in fear of him and of great sins her actions could cause. Simin is played by Leila Hatami, who has such powerful on screen presence you can't take your eyes off her whenever she appears on the screen. As Simin determined to take her daughter with her out of the country, but still having strong feelings towards her husband she is almost like a separate force that commands the screen every time she appears on it.
Despite being a wonderful and engaging picture "A Separation" after watching it I wasn't left with great epiphanies or reflections - yes, I did spent some time thinking about the story and the message of the film which I believe was that even if you care about people sometimes life will force you to cause them harm, even if you have noble reasons - but the movie simply didn't stay with me. It is however definitely worth watching mainly for superb script and amazing performances.

10 comments:

  1. I really love this film. I found it a great insight into a world I have little knowledge about. The strains and marital traditions seem so alien to me sitting here in UK. As does the legal system.

    Great write up matey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved that it provided so much insight without being confusing, I too have absolutely no idea about Iranian culture. Thanks! :)

      Delete
  2. Literally just saw this a couple of hours ago at a preview screening (curse these Australian release dates) - really incredible film. I loved the way it was shot, the performances, the story. The first scene was amazing I thought :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, it was. It pretty much set the pace for the entire movie, so dynamic - just a conversation, but you were unable to take your eyes off the screen.

      Delete
  3. I really liked it, too, I thought the script was the best part of it and I do agree the story is so appealling because it is universal! Great write-up!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I wish I had been able to see this prior to the Oscars, but it's highly likely that I will have to wait for it to come out on DVD.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is such a well scripted story. Also, I totally agree with what you said about Leila Hatami as Simin. She has this amazing poise and strength in her gaze that totally draws you in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. I hope she continues to appear in movies.

      Delete
  6. Great review, and I think we responded in very similar ways.

    I think you may have confused the names of two of the characters. Sareh Bayat plays Razieh, the woman who is taking care of the grandfather. Termeh is the name of Nader and Simin's daughter, played by Sarina Farhadi (the director's daughter!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! That's very possible I did not understand a word characters said and confused the names a lot during watching the movie :)

      Delete