2012 Academy Award winner for best foreign language picture, Iranian social drama A SEPARATION follows the legal struggle between apparently wealthy, middle class Nader (Peyman Moadi) and housekeeper Razieh (Sareh Bayat), after a dispute leads to tragic consequences. Recently separated from wife Simin (Leila Hatami), juggling a career and responsibility to his 11 year old daughter, and caring for his alzheimer’s stricken father, Nader is a man with a very full plate. Razieh is equally burdened by her pregnancy and the need to earn money following her husband’s redundancy, while her incredibly devout religious beliefs only seem to make things more difficult. Ultimately when their two lives clash, such a frustrating situation is born that the film is at times exhausting to watch, yet always completely compelling.
A SEPARATION is a glimpse into a world not often seen by foreign audiences, the day to day minutiae of life in relatively affluent Iranian society, where class and religious beliefs come into conflict in unexpected ways. There’s something so absurd and darkly humorous about so many of the realities these people must endure, particularly in regards to religion, yet never does the film feel phony or forced. As each character gets drawn into the dilemma more and more and the blame game spirals out of control, so too does the narrative style constantly circle back on itself while never nearing any kind of resolution. A SEPARATION is maddening by design, representative of what seems to be an incredibly intricate and baffling bureaucratic system, compounded by archaic religious doctrine and difficult social politics. It’s by no means an easy film, but for anyone willing to step outside their comfort zone, it’s a rewarding experience, with much to take in and no doubt discuss afterwards.