Iranian director Asghar Farhadi delivers a highly emotional drama with his latest feature A Separation, utilising many of the same cast he used in his previous film, the multi-award-winning About Elly.
Farhadi cast his own daughter, Sarina, in the role of Termeh – a girl at the centre of a tug-of-war between two divorcing parents – whose predicament is at the forefront of the early premise of the film.
Termeh’s parents, Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), are not divorcing for reasons such as an adulterous relationship or because they have fallen out of love – while in legal discussions Simin is happy to admit that Nader is a good and loving husband – but rather because Simin is desperate to leave Iran for a better life for her family, whereas Nader will not leave his elderly Alzheimer’s-affected father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi).
When Simin departs the family home, Nader takes on a poor local woman, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), as a carer for his father while he is at work and Termeh is at school. What seems like a fairly routine home-help scenario quickly turns into a nightmare for all concerned, as Razieh struggles with the extent of her role, with her young daughter in tow.
A tragic incident, just a few days in to new set-up at his home, turns this initially slow-paced saga into a highly engaging moral melting pot, in which the repercussions of the pivotal moment engulf the lives of not only this family, but for Razieh and her temperamental husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini).
Much of the problems stem from the fact that Razieh is pregnant and all manner of moral, social and religious issues cause each character to make decisions that the director seems to want to the audience to ponder, question and evaluate, in the same way that each character does when dealing with each dilemma they face.
A Separation deserves the plaudits and awards (including Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear) it has gained, as the film generates genuine tension, boasts convincing performances from an impressively emotive cast and poses weighty questions for the viewer about love, responsibility and the significance of principles in human life choices.
What seems like a fairly simple story on the surface is skilfully crafted by Farhadi – who also wrote the screenplay – to open up into an engrossing melodrama, in which the characters all expertly portray the powerful thematic emotion of desperation in the face of adversity.
A Separation (PG)
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Merila Zare’i, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi
Running time: 123 minutes
A Separation is showing at the Rio Cinema until 7 July.