The Past [Le Passé]
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Memento Films Production, France 3 Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
The Past [Le Passé] Movie Review
Like his award-winning drama A Separation, this French drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is packed with complex characters who have detailed, full lives. And the connections between them are so layered with meaning that we can't help but see ourselves in each of them. As the title suggests, this is a story about the baggage we carry around with us, and Farhadi's approach is to confront it rather than hiding it away.
It all kicks off when Ahmad (Mosaffa) returns to Paris after four years back home in Tehran. His estranged French wife Marie-Anne (Bejo) wants him to sign the divorce papers so she can marry her new boyfriend Samir (Rahim), whose child she's carrying. But she also needs Ahmad's help with her 17-year-old daughter Lucie (Burlet), who has taken an irrational exception to Samir's presence. Ahmad has always had a better relationship with Lucie, but as he tries to help he gets dragged into a complicated web of secrets and misunderstandings.
The story is full of wrinkles. Samir is also married, but his wife is in a coma. And his expressive 5-year-old son (Aguis), as well as Marie-Anne's younger daughter (Jestin) also play into their relationship. As does Samir's eerily observant employee Naima (Ouazani). The way all of these people circle around each other sometimes feels a bit melodramatic, with pointed dialog, emotional over-reactions and a stream of revelations that change everything entirely. More interesting are the unfinished conversations and random outbursts that give real insight into the characters.
These also give the fine actors a lot to work with, showing us that these people are often unsure how they feel about everything. And even more intriguing is the way their words and actions conflict with what they really think. In other words, this film is almost unnervingly realistic. Layered performances combine apparently conflicting emotions in ways that we can easily identify with, even though we don't want to. And in the end, we're left shaken by the intensity of what happens as people avoid the painful truth, then must try not to create even more pain as a result.