a separation (2011)
A Separation begins with an excellently constructed scene detailing a married couple in court arguing about their divorce. The wife wants to leave for America with their daughter while the husband wants to stay to take care of his father with Alzheimer’s. From that point on the story unfolds with Rube Goldbergian momentum, resulting in one of the most grueling, and at times thrilling, explorations of interpersonal relationships. Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi takes weighty societal, religious, and moral ideas and handles them with sophisticated assurance. The film avoids feeling heavy handed by keeping these concepts grounded in the very personal human drama. The cast led by the intense Peyman Maadi and captivating Leila Hatami is uniformly superb. Their performances seethe with tension and sympathy, making the stakes of their plight all the more perceptible. A Separation uses divorce as a means of further examining the ways in which people blame the opposing party and refuse to take responsibility, oftentimes at the expense of their family’s livelihood. While the film is distressing, it provides a rewarding look into the specificity of a culture with problems that ultimately resonate with us all.