This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 15th April 2012
Winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film, A Separation returns after its New Zealand debut at the film festival last year. And thank goodness. Iranian film-maker Asghar Farhadi’s fifth feature film may not need its Oscar, Golden Globe or Cesar to prove it’s a great movie, but they’re an indicator of how universally affecting and well-told the story is.
Nader and Simin are a husband and wife on the brink of separation. Simin wants to take their daughter Termeh abroad for better opportunities; Nader is loyal to the elderly father he is nursing through illness and refuses to leave. Among the conflict of family drama and distress, Nader employs a stranger to work as his father’s carer, not knowing the woman has issues of her own.
This simple set-up ignites an entirely plausible turn of events which suddenly pitches the characters against one another in surprising ways. The film swiftly spirals into a game of he-said-she-said, a maze of secrets and withheld truths, of context and opinion. Every single performance is faultless – it’s impossible not to lose yourself in the realism of the family’s troubles – and the cleverly subtle revelations will have you gripped to the final, enigmatic moments.