Broken families, hidden secrets and the repercussion of lies. Why yes it is a new Asghar Farhadi film. Farhadi’s latest effort explores a deeply complex and convoluted family situation that proves devastating and affects more people and more people as truths and lies alike continue to surface. My review of The Past after the jump.
Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to France after four years to finalise the divorce from his ex-wife whom he abandoned, along with her two children, to live in his home country, Iran. His wife, Marie (Berenice Bejo), insists he returns for the divorce having barely seen him after their separation. She now lives with her current partner, Samir (Tahar Rahim) and his young son, Fouad. Ahmad only becomes aware of this living arrangement when he visits the family, and he feels incredibly uncomfortable about it all. The situation quickly escalates and manifests into a series of lies and revealed secrets when Ahmad reconnects with Lucie (Pauline Burlet), Marie’s daughter from a previous marriage; and Samir begins to feel uneasy about his relationship with Marie. Ahmad’s reappearance causes the family to reexamine their relationships and truly question if they are happy and content with their lives.
Farhadi’s A Separation is a film that will constantly be compared to The Past due to their similarities and their order in the director’s filmography. Despite the two films sharing similar themes and story arcs, they are exceptionally different and the comparison should be avoided. What should be analysed is Farhadi’s progression as a film-maker and storyteller, as his character studies only prove more and more complex and intricate. The Past is a far from perfect film, but its detail regarding its characters is something to behold. The story revolves around relationships formed from uncomfortable circumstances and the nature of past love and partners. Does one really stop loving their former partner entirely? How does this affect current romantic relationships, as well as relationships involving family and friends?
Farhadi’s screenplay is a manifesto of characters struggling to confront their greatest regrets and fears. We see the pain in their eyes, and we understand from the first minute that we’re introduced to each of these people, that nothing is in fact okay. The film’s third act becomes incredibly convoluted, which is of course the intention, as each character’s lies or misunderstandings only complicates their lives further. As a result, this does make the film and it’s story feel strenuous towards the end, but nevertheless the film, much like his other works, is effective and heartbreaking.
Performances are fantastic, with each actor giving such great conviction to their characters. Part of the screenplay’s success comes from these performances – we believe the pain, suffering and frustration these characters are going through. Farhadi’s direction is also incredibly concise, yet rich. Very few moments are wasted, yet patience is given to each scene as performances and the storytelling are given time to expand and elaborate.
Life is indescribably difficult and relationships and lies are inextricably linked. We don’t want to admit this, and neither do these characters, but Farhardi refuses to let us avoid it.
By Chris Elena
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer(s): Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Ali Mofassa, Berenice Bejo, Pauline Burlet and Tahar Rahim
Runtime: 130 minutes