By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2011--A SEPARATION  Send This Review to a Friend

Life in Iran gets an unusual inspection in a drama-charged story that is told with intensity and suspense and brings insight into how domestic matters may be resolved in the country’s court system. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film focuses on a couple needing to separate because of conflicting desires and perspectives.

Simin (Leila Hatami) and her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) have obtained difficult-to-get visas to go abroad. Simin is determined to go because she thinks it will be a great opportunity for their 11-year-old daughter. Nader doesn’t want to leave his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The matter becomes one for a family court hearing.

That is just the beginning of the legal entanglement that dominates the film. Razieh (Sareh Bayat) is hired to help care for Nader’s ailing father. She doesn’t tell her husband about taking the job, nor does she tell Nader that she is pregnant. When they have an argument, Nader, who has a hot temper and a mean disdain for an employee, fires her and pushes her out of the apartment. As a result she presses a claim of injury.

We see the inferior role of women in Iran and the control husbands exert over them. There is also a look at the system of so-called justice, and the tradition of financial settlements to wipe away grievances. Razieh’s husband eventually counts on such a settlement to get out of debt, but there is something he does not know that comes out in the confrontations. Questions of honor clash with matters of need, and the emotions engulfing both families pulsate.

The film consists primarily of a rat-a-tat-tat of pronouncements, arguments and negotiating, all with escalating intensity as the issues and the revelations come to a boil. One is caught up in both the fighting and the methods of solving such problems, making for an unusual movie-going experience that is as enlightening as it is dramatically involving. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

  

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