It’s a miracle that Iranian filmmakers continue to produce complex and deeply humanistic work despite their increasingly draconian film industry, and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation is the year’s finest example of this art in the face of repression.
Simin (Hatami) hopes to emigrate to Europe to provide her daughter with greater opportunities in life. Her husband Naader (Moaadi), meanwhile, feels bound to stay in Tehran alongside his ailing father. What begins as a simple marital battle of wills soon attains greater significance as Naader is forced to hire the pregnant Razieh (Bayat) to assist him in his household. Terrible consequences ensue as the picture explores notions of class, religion, family and responsibility.
Farhadi demonstrates a Hitchcockian flair for suspense, while his cast deliver faultless performances. What makes A Separation essential viewing for Western audiences, however, is its depiction of modern day Iranians. While burdens of Islamic culture weigh heavily on its characters, each is eminently recognisable and sympathetic, their moral codes no less confused than our own.