Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, A Separation is a study in a family’s struggles after the husband and wife separate over differences surrounding the future of their daughter.
Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to move the family to America and give her daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) opportunities she will not find in Iran, but her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) will not consent to a divorce and refuses to abandon his invalid father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) for the promise of a better life in a country that is not his own.
When his wife moves out Nader has no other choice but to hire someone to look after his father while he is at work. Nader agrees to give the work to a husband (Shahab Hosseini) of a friend of Simin’s, but when he’s unable to take the job due to legal troubles it falls to his wife Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to take care of elderly man suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, which proves to be a much harder task then she initially envisioned.
A series of events leads to Nader’s father being harmed and in turn threatening Razieh who later blames Nader’s outburst for causing her miscarriage and the loss of her unborn son. As the two families bicker in court about who is responsible for what, young Termeh watches silently as the adults who love each other tell half-truths and lies to protect themselves and try to take vengeance on the other side who they blame for the entire incident.
The script by writer/director Asghar Farhadi focuses on small choices leading to big consequences that spiral the situation further and further out of control. Events even get to the point where Nader fears for the safety of his family. A Separation is a morality play firmly grounded in the real emotions of well-rounded characters facing the harsh consequences of their own actions.
At times A Separation isn’t easy to watch, but it earns its Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Although the film is subtitled and takes place in a country halfway around the world, the dilemmas each character struggles with are universal and profound. As the drama and tension rises you forget that the crux of the story, hidden under threats between two families over how each feels they were wronged, is the story of a young girl pulled in two separate directions by parents who want very different things for themselves, and for their daughter.
If you’re a fan of drama, even if you usually stay away from films with subtitles, I’d definitely recommend giving A Separation a chance. Although you may not recognize the language in which the story is spoken, the emotional impact of of the tale speaks for itself.