A Separation Movie Review
When his wife Simin (Hatami) leaves him, Nader (Moaadi) hires Razieh (Bayat), a woman he barely knows, to help look after his senile father (Shahbazi).
Struggling to care for both his father and his 11-year-old daughter Termeh (Farhadi), who's studying for her exams, Nader is thrown completely off balance when Razieh lets him down. And things get worse when her volatile husband Hojjat (Hosseini) enters the scene, accusing Nader of violence against his wife. This has ramifications for everyone in Nader's life, as integrity and honesty are put on trial.
Filmmaker Farhadi tells this story without flinching; there is no music or sentimentality to ratchet up the emotion. Instead we feel every moment through the eyes of these realistic characters: suffering from each insult, recoiling from each assault, clinging to every expression of compassion. Watching this film is a full-on experience, as we ricochet through the events, feeling every emotional blow as if it hit us square on the nose.
And the acting is flawless, with each character conveying a complexity we rarely see on screen. Moaadi's Nader is ostensibly the hero of the piece, abandoned by his wife and accused by this stranger. But he's not actually any better than anyone else; he lies when he has to, and he refuses to play the game just as everyone does when faced with a legal system that seems tilted against them. Meanwhile, Bayat and Hosseini add complexity to the shadier characters, much more religious than Nader and Simin and also more prone to cultural issues that prevent the truth from coming out.
Watching Razieh blatantly lie to the judge makes our blood boil, but Farhadi has some surprises up his sleeve that reveal our own hypocrisy along with the characters' imperfections. This is bold, urgent, staggeringly skilful filmmaking that cuts right to the core of our own values. It also shows that Farhadi's previous film, the excellent About Elly..., was merely a warning shot. This one positions him as one of the most gifted filmmakers working today.