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The Independent Critic

Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi
Asghar Farhadi
Rated PG-13
120 Mins.
Sony Classics
Farsi(With Subtitles)
Interviews with director Asghar Farhadi and actress Leila Hatam

 "A Separation" Review 
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Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and also a nominee for Asghar Farhadi's triumphant and remarkably authentic screenplay, the Iranian film A Separation is one of the best family dramas to come down the pike in years in any language. The film, which opens in my hometown of Indianapolis at the Keystone Art Cinema on March 2, 2012, is a sublime movie-going experience and easily one of 2011's most satisfying motion pictures.

Nader (Peyman Moaadi) is a man whose entire life seems to be disintegrating around him. His wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), wants to leave his native Iran and take their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) with her. Nader, however, feels that he must stay in Iran to care for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who is experiencing increasing signs of dementia. Nader is a man of modest means, and attempting to pay for both child and elder care is a daunting task even if such a caretaker can be found. When he does eventually find someone who minimally meets the requirements, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), she presents with her own baggage including a temperamental husband (Shahab Hosseini).

The beauty of A Separation, and what one can only hope will help sell it to American audiences, is the universality of its themes, messages and conflicts. It is likely difficult to come up with even a handful of Americans who don't present with a pre-conceived notion regarding life in Iran. We see the newspapers, hear the politicians and watch the televisions and integrate their biases, notions and judgments into what we believe life in Iran to most closely resemble. A Separation is a reminder that for a good majority of persons in the world, the issues and concerns that impact us all are far more common than we often admit.

Of course, there's also simply the fact that A Separation is an incredibly good film that is both beautifully acted and directed with a script that was most worthy of its Oscar nomination and, if we're being honest, probably deserved to win it.

While the film's themes and ideas are universal, A Separation also offers a rare but fair glimpse into the lives of Iran's middle class and the culture's patriarchal and class-based society. It is both interesting and harrowing to watch how the decisions made by both Nader and Simin lead to consequences that impact far more than just the immediate family. Nader, in particular, is strongly impacted by his decision to hire Razieh, a disciplined Muslim from the nation's lower class whose presence will prove incredibly challenging.

The cast is uniformly strong, with Peyman Mooadi and Leila Hatami both picking up several acting awards along the film's festival route and leaving an impression that will likely stay with you long after the film's closing credits have scrolled by. Wisely, Farhadi doesn't paint these characters as all good or all bad but simply all caught up in their own humanity.

A Separation was named by The Independent Critic as 2011's Best Foreign Language Film, and even if you find yourself struggling with the idea of subtitles this is one film that's worth the challenge.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic