“A Separation” reveals family complexities

By Carolyn Williams

Senior Writer

Asghar Farhadi’s latest film “A Separation” elegantly deals with the delicate balance of a family in crisis, earning the movie plenty of well-deserved praise, including the coveted Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture.

We open on Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) suing for divorce. An intrinsically honest film from the beginning, the couple faces the camera as they argue their case, making the audience their judge, whose verdict is an unsympathetic voiceover. Simin is reluctantly trying to leave Nader because, after all the work she went through to obtain visas so they can leave Iran in hopes of a better life for their 10-year-old daughter, Termeh (played by Sarina Farhadi, the director’s daughter), Nader refuses to leave. He chooses instead to care for his aging father who has been incapacitated by Alzheimer’s, but won’t give permission for Termeh to leave with her mother, and so Simin’s suit is dismissed. The pair argue, Simin exasperated and Nader unyielding, until they are told to leave, and Simin is informed that her problem is “small.”

So begins the couple’s separation, as Simin moves out of their upper-middle class home to return to her parents. Termeh remains with her father and grandfather, studious and shy, and clearly terrified that her family will collapse in on itself. In Simin’s absence, Nader is forced to hire a working-class woman, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to look after his father during the day. Razieh, a devout and anxious woman, brings her young daughter with her to work. Her apparent incompetence as a caretaker creates friction with Nader, and this friction leads to the turning point of the film, bringing both families back to the same courtroom from the beginning scene, and allowing the audience to gain a deeper understanding of all the movie’s characters and overreaching implications.

The cast is excellent and their moving performances prove that each of their characters acts with valid motivation. No one in this film is a “bad guy;” honestly, no one is really so bad at all. The separation and the individuals it affects, becomes, under Farhadi’s expert direction, a microcosm for the social situation in Iran at large. The two families represent different socio-economic and religious groups, but they are all part of the same problem. Simin wants desperately to get out from under the shadow of Iran’s patriarchal society, to give her daughter a chance at a better life elsewhere, but is at the same time unwilling to leave her husband, whom she clearly still loves. Nader spends his days taking care of his senile father, an obvious metaphor for the same society Simin wants out from, and though he loves his daughter and puts much of his time into her comprehensive education, he is loath to give her a chance at a more equal life, struggling with the loss of his own power as a man within Iranian society.

“A Separation” deals with complex domestic and social issues which seem simultaneously familiar and foreign, but, as with all society, the real decisions come down to the upcoming generation. And the watchful Termeh’s final word will be what really enacts change, both in her family, and, potentially, Iran at large.

(Visited 72 times, 1 visits today)