A Separation (جدایی نادر از سیمین, translit. Jodái-e Náder az Simin), written and directed by Asghar Farhadi is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s about Nader and Simin, an upper-middle class couple in contemporary Iran. Simin wants to get divorced in order to leave the country; her husband refuses; their 11 years old daughter is caught in the middle.
The plot follows what happens when the wife moves out of the family home and Nader has to hire a carer for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
The script is clear and mysterious at the same time; it appears extremely simple on the surface, but unravels a whole series of topics and debates that can’t possibly leave anybody untouched - and unsurprised.
The film is shot with great restraint but never appears mannered; Farhadi uses hand-held cameras to get as close as possible to the core of the story, and powerfully captures some rich, naturalistic performances to suit the strong, complex characters.
I don’t know that much about contemporary Iran, but the film struck me as coming from a very honest and deep place within the country and its culture; its portrayal of gender and class relations is nuanced and sophisticated, and never falls into the easy traps of either sanctimonious accusation or sentimentalism to which many films of this kind are prone.
I have a lot more to say about it, but it’s still sinking in, and it’s really one of those cases when the less you know about it before seeing it, the more you will get into it. Go see it.