Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi is a nominee for an Academy Award, for Best Original Screenplay. His simple but heart-rending movie, "A Separation," is a candidate for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar. Winning both would be a victory for the longest long shot in Oscar history, but neither would be undeserved.
The film, which opens here today, involves an Iranian family, Nader (Payman Maadi), his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) and their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director's off-screen daughter). Given the turmoil of the Middle East, Simin wants the family to move to the U.S. so that Termeh can grow up in a more peaceful, less restrictive environment. Nader supports the idea, but refuses to leave his aging father, who lives with them and who is suffering from Alzheimer's.
Difficult decision, right? "Of course right," as Tevye would say, right from the Russian shtetl of "Fiddler on the Roof?"
That's the heart of Farhadi's film, mostly drama with a large slice of how difficult it is to live in the theocracy that is Iran, a smaller slice of comedy of manners and morals in a restrictive society.
Simin decides to move out, to start working on her emigration, but Temeh decides to stay with her father. Nader, at Simin's suggestion, hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to spent days with his father, played so very well by Ali-Asghar Shahbazi. Razieh, young, pregnant and unlettered, is over her head. When the old man is incontinent, she checks to find out of she can clean him without committing a sin. And, piling another straw on her slender back, she has a young daughter as well as being pregnant. Her husband, the quick-to-anger Houjat (Shahab Hosseini), is furious that she is working a menial job, but he's happy to take her money.
Given all these wandering shards of plot, we have a major soap opera in action, but Farhadi gives all these people as much dignity as they can carry, maybe more, and the excellent cast responds beautifully. Simin and Temeh are especially good. The complex goings-on always are easy to follow, and Farhadi leads the cast through a Middle Eastern court that appears to be an Arabic version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. A splendid film.
A Separation opens today at the Plaza Frontenac