"A Separation" (2011)- Movie Review

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring Payman Maadi, Leila Hatami, and Sareh Bayat

‘Landmark Filmmaking’

Certain decisions are difficult to make. Especially when one doesn’t know if there are consequences associated with them. Take into account when people are forced to make a choice that could shape the rest of their future, or even oppose their morals. Would they know the pros and cons of this decision?

Truth be told, they most likely wouldn’t. Some outcomes of a choice cannot be predicted, and this causes many people to think carefully in the process of decision-making. Perhaps, as Lisa Wingate once said, “The hardest thing about the road not taken is that you never know where it might have led.”

In “A Separation”, a married couple along with the people around them face daunting decisions that have an immense impact on their lives. Set in modern day Iran, the film follows a deteriorating relationship between Nader and his wife Simin. When Nader objects to leaving the country due to his father’s illness, his life spirals out of control.

First off, I must admit that I don’t regularly watch foreign films. Yes, there is the exception of Indian movies since I am familiar with the language and have grown up watching them, but otherwise I rarely watch films from countries other than the United States. Having heard much acclaim for “A Separation” , I decided to watch it. And it was then that I realized how important it is to watch movies from all over the world.

The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of 2011, “A Separation” is an intense, complex, and unpredictable movie that lingers in your mind, refusing to leave. It is the kind of film that is so dramatically rich that it has a great first-hour, but improves massively during the second-half only to leave the viewer with a breathless, powerful ending. The director, Asghar Farhadi, takes filmmaking to another level; proving that “A Separation” is much more than just a regular movie.

One doesn’t always come across films that capture the hardships and emotions of a deteriorating family in an effective manner. There are exceptional movies that illustrate these themes such as “Ordinary People”, but very few are impactful. “A Separation”, in stark contrast, is crystal clear about what it has to say on the subjects of families and decisions. Thought-provoking and complex, the movie demands the viewer’s attention from start to finish.

Like a composer orchestrating a group of musicians, Irani director Asghar Farhadi deftly manages a complicated script and brings out the best in a talented cast. As both writer and director of the film, he is in total control of the story. It shows through the script and performances from the cast.

For a screenplay that is filled with multiple characters and subplots, Farhadi impressively connects and proves that each one is significant to the story. Some characters presented here have so many sides and nuances in their personalities, that it seems as if they are actually real. Credit must go towards the actors for making them unforgettable and more importantly, realistic.

In a cast that includes immensely talented and gifted Iranian actors, not one of them disappoints.

The most noticeable standout is the lead actor, Payman Maadi. Starring in the role of a person who is trying to take care of his father and daughter, Maadi is brilliant in a star-making performance. And the character that the actor portrays is far from ordinary. Throughout the film, he is struggling to cope with a devastating life. The things that really make this character memorable are the ways in which Maadi delivers his performance. A specific quote by Ritu Ghatourey is one that describes the actor’s techniques perfectly: “all that is in the heart is written on the face”. The actor chooses to use facial expressions in his performance, and this makes his acting unforgettable. Emotions are brought out in an impressive, unexpected method that some of the other actors also use.

The ultimate message of a film lies in it’s script, but filmmakers often fail to deliver it in a clear way. What is unique about “A Separation” is the fact that it lets the viewer decide on a specific message. The filmmakers lay out the themes, and take a huge risk by not building on a central message. Yet in the end, it somehow works and is one of the most admirable things about the movie.

Regardless of all the praise that strikes “A Separation”, it’s not intended for just any movie-goer. To put it into simplest terms: anyone who watches films only for entertainment will most likely be disappointed with what this movie offers.

It’s ending leaves behind unanswered questions, some of the scenes are heartbreaking to watch and the film itself is quite solemn from start to finish. However, there are reasons for this and “A Separation” more than anything, proves them.

5/5 stars

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