A Separation (Iran; 123 min.)

directed by:
Asghar Farhadi
starring: Peyman Maadi; Leila Hatami; Sareh Bayat; Shahab Hosseini; Sarina Farhadi
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin

Ibad says: "I'm fully aware that when someone like myself has been really hyping up a certain picture for a while...and they finally see it...and it turns out, surprise!, they're in love with it, it almost seems forced if not bordering on self-fulfilling prophecy. But when Asghar Farhadi (whom I met before the screening and is a totally nice guy) introduced the film, he told us to forget anything we've heard about it and ordered us not to think about any awards it had won or what reviews we'd read of it or any preconceptions we'd held and to pretend that we have an appointment at 4:00 and were just looking for a way to kill time until then by watching that movie. And by the end of it, for the first time I've ever seen a 1 pm non-gala showing at a film festival, Farhadi rightfully received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"And boy did he deserve it. It was honestly one of the most emotional, invigorating, aggravating, tense and visceral viewing experiences and reaction I've had to watching a film in a very long time. Perhaps it's a bit one-sided in favor of Nader to a fault, but his character still gets enough of a vague morality that comprises part of the film's beauty. Never before, I'll say, have I seen a film that so perfectly captures the ambiguity of human 'truth.' Let's just say that Meryl Streep's final line in DOUBT had nowhere near the impact or stakes that a similar line delivered in this film had by any means. But you see temperatures flailing as two sides held black and white and defined sides when deep inside, both sides know they each have more nuances and complications to their stories that they will refuse to confront either out of their own shame or guilt or rationality's sake to win in the system of a legal court.

"There were points in the film where I easily felt as hot-tempered as the characters themselves and by the end of it was basically shaking, and I think many in the audience felt the same way. I think I read somewhere that some felt that the sort-of-twist in the final act completely ruined it for them but I don't really think it was anything that I paid much attention or mind to while watching it because it all still fit with the rest of the film and the story, and if anything added a necessary complication to a certain character's side to the story that made me sympathize a little more with her actions despite how deep the implications of it ran, whereas otherwise I think that would have seemed weak. And to me it just speaks more to how intricately and beautifully constructed every word and character and action in Farhadi's script is, and each and every performance more or less seemed as intricate and beautiful as Farhadi had seemingly written them, and I totally understand why basically every actor won Best Actor or Best Actress at Berlin and why Isabella Rosselini's jury's decision was pretty unanimous. It's truly a marvel to behold.

"Rating: All the cats in the world."

Michael says:  "I am right there with Ibad on this one, and BETH CALDWELL TAKE NOTICE - this one is for you!  Viewing this film was one of those rare cinematic experiences I live for.  As some people know, my favorite genre of films are those that make you want to slit your wrists when their finished.  A SEPARATION was one of most emotionally wrenching films I've seen in a long time.  I felt like I was emotionally tortured for two hours and I loved every minute of it.  As the film gradually unfolds, you watch good, people just making decisions and acting on them in small ways that you can just see are going to lead inexorably to a very bad situation, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.  Additionally, even though characters are making poor decision or lying to protect themselves or their families, you can completely understand why they are making the decisions that they are making.

"A young couple with an eleven-year-old daughter are asking for a divorce, because the mother wants to leave Iran, while her husband does not because he is taking care of his father who is suffering with Alzheimer's.  The mother wants to leave Iran to give her daughter a chance at a better life.  The father agrees to the divorce, but will not allow their daughter to go with her mother.  Instead the couple separates, with the mother going to live with her mother for a time.  During this time, the father hires a woman to take care of his father while he is at work.  She is pregnant, but takes the job without telling her husband, so she can raise some extra money to pay off his creditors.  To delve too deeply into the circumstances that arise over the next few days would take away for the experience of watching the film, but things go horribly wrong, and the two families find themselves at odds with each other.  Young Termeh, the daughter of the separated couple, bears the brunt of emotional toll and it is heartbreaking to see how her parents actions affect her.

"Sadly this film hasn't opened in Boston yet and will not be before nominations time, so we will most likely have to push it off to next year, but I can't urge you enough to see it.  My experience watching this film was visceral as my heart went out to each of these characters at different times.  It is superbly acted, and wonderfully shot.  I expect to be nominating it in several characters, and I'm sure it will turn up quite high in my Top films of the year.  5 cats"

Thom says:  "This film was sent to me by a dear, old friend from the UK & since I offered it up for viewing through Chlotrudis I felt compelled to watch it quickly, which I finally did on my home computer after not being able to retrieve the subtitles on my DVD player option. Thanks to the many Chlotrudis members who suggested I try my computer. The film has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language film and has been praised to the skies by fellow Chlotrudis critics as well as national & international reviewers. This the story of an Iranian family who is on the verge of dismantling before our eyes. The mother, Simin (Hatami), wants to study abroad and take her family (husband & daughter) with her, but the father, Nader (Moadi), wants to stay in Iran because he feels a strong sense of duty to care for his Alzheimer-ridden father who is unable to care for himself. Their daughter, Termeh (S. Farhadi), decides to stay with her father, ostensibly to woo back Simin. Nader hires an indigent, pregnant woman, Razieh (Bayat) with family problems of her own to care for his confused dad but the situation disintegrates when the care-giver leaves her difficult charge tied to the bed when she has an emergency that arises. Some money goes missing as well and when Nader confronts Razieh he ends up pushing her out the door. After collapsing on the stairs leading away from the apartment she is rushed to the hospital, but miscarries her baby and ends up accusing Nader of the murder of her child. I was intrigued by the film, and, at the very least, it was exciting seeing a film from Iran that wasn’t mired in politics, religion, or history. But for me, by making the story rather ordinary the film became ordinary and I ended up distancing myself from it. I also had some serious questions about the plot. Who actually stole the money? What was the emergency that made Razieh leave her charge unattended. Why, after hundreds of years of oppression, do women still have to wear that ridiculous burka? I feel the film was a nice advancement for Iranian cinema, but not a very strong or outstanding film.  3.5 cats"

Julie says: "I have no criticisms for this film. Incredibly well done! Very intriguing story. All of the actors did an excellent job. Many noms will be coming from me as well for next year on this one. Michael's review is on point. 5 BIG BIG CATS"

Diane says:  "Now that I have seen A SEPARATION, I'm delighted for its Ensemble nom. My movie mate and I had a long discussion of how this film and CARNAGE are related (altho we've seen only the play, not yet the film version of CARNAGE). I hope you enjoy thinking about that too--how the relationships between each set of parents are in large part the source of the troubles, how the children suffer; misplaced pride, anger, confusion about who and what they are fighting for, ethics being destroyed... 4 cats"

Toni says:  "A suspenseful dramatic masterpiece where the audience is the jury and no man or woman is 100% right or wrong.

"I was surprised to find out the that the adolescent daughter was actually played by director's daughter who has not had much acting experience.

"I forget if we let this one in for nominations or are waiting for next year but the ensemble (and many other categories like directing, screenwriting, and cinematography beats most I have seen in the past year IMHO.

"Also, unlike some films labeled as thrillers this year, this was far more gripping.  It is one of the favorite types of films where I am glad I saw via my projector because I could yell out at the screen as the onion peeled out a new layer in what on the surface appears to be a simple story of divorce but is far more complicated than that.  It is fascinating to show the bleakness of both criminal court and divorce court in similar light... 5 BIG Cats"