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A Separation

#731 - A Separation
Asghar Farhadi, 2011

A husband and wife are going through a separation pending the husband's agreement to a divorce, but things are complicated by a domestic dispute concerning his mentally ill father.

On the surface, A Separation is like just about every other foreign-language drama in its almost complete lack of external action and its focus on an almost completely interpersonal drama that has the occasional influence by the film's country of origin. As the title states, the film is about a separation between a husband and wife for reasons that aren't entirely to do with falling out of love; namely, husband Nader and wife Simin choose to separate because of mutual incompatibility. Simin wants to move out of Iran with the couple's young daughter, but Nader refuses to agree to a divorce on the grounds that he needs to take care of his Alzheimer's-afflicted father. As if this situation wasn't complicated enough, it gets even more complicated when Nader must find someone else to look after his father after Simin moves out. I don't think that going into further detail is especially necessary, especially considering how much of this film is based around slow-burning personal tensions erupting into emotionally charged diatribes, but there is definitely enough going on to fill two hours.

In keeping with the focus on personal drama, A Separation eschews visual flair in favour of quasi-documentarian camerawork with virtually no music whatsoever. Performances are appropriately naturalistic as players rattle off passionate arguments and contradictions while also conveying adequate amounts of depth to make this an above-average morality play. Nader is the ostensible protagonist of extremely debatable sympathy whose struggle to maintain his dignity and innocence in the face of the film's events is a compelling one. Meanwhile, the characters around him are at least given enough nuance to keep things morally complex and constantly keep you guessing as to how the various conflicts resolve. In addition to telling a fascinating story, the film also touches upon various resonant themes such as family values, mental illness, religion, economic strife, and so forth. It's not so much superficial examination as it is a natural extension of the various characters, and that only feeds into this film proving to be engrossing viewing up until its final moments.