Film Review: A Separation

Farhadi’s A Separation is a compelling morality play. The film is commendable for the way it presents events, keeping a level head despite the heated proceedings.

Simin wishes to leave Iran and move abroad, hoping it will bring better opportunities for her daughter Termeh. Husband Nader is against the idea, as he has to care for his elderly father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. When Simin moves in with her parents, Nader hires a carer to look after his dad. When Nader returns home early from work one day, things become complicated for all involved…

A Separation is a multi-layered film that allows events to unfold at a natural pace. The narrative is presented with objectivity. Writer and director Farhadi offers both sympathy and disdain to all the main characters. The reasons for their actions are clear and understandable, but at the same time none of them come away unscathed.

A Separation is a well-executed film that is commendable on every level. The best thing about the film, however, is that the director asks his audience to react empirically to the action rather than emotionally. A Separation avoids the trap of so many other dramas that feature a divisive central incident. The film is not heavy-handed in suggesting whom the viewer should side with. Nor does it attempt to elicit emotion. Farhadi’s film is one to ponder on, rather than one that provokes an emotional response.

The  complicated morals of the characters are replicated somewhat by the visual style of the film. Shots are often cluttered, with the characters being obscured by objects in the foreground. Similarly, characters often speak over one another, indicating the tensions at play. Much of the action takes place in the apartment or in small rooms, adding a sense of claustrophobia. The film has a natural look, especially with the use of lighting.

Payman Moaadi offers an engaging performance as Nader. The struggle of this character is clear thanks to Moaadi’s competent portrayal. Leila Hatami is convincing as Simin, a well-developed and realistic character. Sareh Bayat is also good as Razieh, a rather tragic figure. Sarina Farhadi gives a great performance despite her young age. Particularly in the latter part of the film, she is wholly believable in the understated role.

A Separation shines a light of an Iranian culture not often depicted in the Western media. Asghar Farhadi has done a fantastic job of crafting an engaging and memorable film.