Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 331 - A Separation

A Separation (2011) directed by Asghar Farhadi

A Separation is a powerful family drama about the messy nature of human relationships where each character can be sympathized with and understood. This is not a movie with sensationalized drama, but a study of real people in difficult circumstances. Real human drama happens at the home, and sadly at the courts, as people fight for custody, divorce, and plain spite. There are no winners in these circumstances, often only losers, just as there aren't really any true villains, just ordinary people at ends with each other.

The film begins with Simin and Nader sitting before a judge. Simin seeks a divorce if Nader does not agree to move abroad for a better opportunity for their daughter Termeh. Nader cannot leave on account of his father who suffers from Alzheimer's. "He doesn't even know that you are his son," she argues. "I know that he is my father," he answers back. She leaves him for a short while to cool things off between them. He is left alone to care for their eleven year old daughter and his ailing father. At this point of the film we must side with Nader, but can we really accuse Simin of being heartless? She is only thinking of Termeh's future and deep down inside knows there is no hope for Nader's father anyways.

Nader hires a a caretaker named Razieh to look after his father while he is at work. Razieh doesn't realize how much work it is to care for him and is overwhelmed. Plus the commute is long and she is five months pregnant. One day Nader comes back to find Razieh gone and his father tied to his bed. Razieh has stepped away to run an errand, the nature of which we do not know nor will she say. When she returns Nader confronts her angrily. A physical altercation occurs and Razieh may or may not have been pushed down a flight of stairs causing a miscarriage. Nader would never intentionally harm a woman, a pregnant one no less; he just simply wanted to her out of his house in his moment of anger. But the damage is done and now Razieh and her husband are suing him for murder. Nader in turn sues her for negligence while caring for his father. It is an ugly and messy dispute where both sides come across looking bad, yet we understand both sides. What really happened almost doesn't matter; no one will be happy in the end.

Nader's relationship with Simin is even more strained than before. Would any of this have happened if she were still at home with them? The real loser in all this fighting is Termeh who is caught in the middle. She may be only eleven but she undersands fully what is happening around her. She must suffer silently as she watches her parents argue. Children are far more perceptive than they are given credit for. In one scene we see Termeh exchanging long eye contact with Razieh's four year old daughter as the grown ups argue. They can sympathize with each other's problems.


All the grown ups must share the blame to some extent, Simin for leaving, Razieh for holding on to her secrets, her husband for being ill-tempered, and perhaps most of all Nader not just for pushing Razieh but in how he handles the aftermath. In a gut wrenching scene Termeh is expected to lie for Nader to the judge. Nothing is said between them but you can sense the rift grow between them. In a later scene Nader puts all the pressure on her by bluffing her with a guilt trip in hopes she will not go with her mother. Earlier he confronts Simin for being a coward, but this was the most cowardly move in the whole film. But again, he isn't really a bad guy here. We can see how decent and loving he can be. He is simply a man with a difficult problem. Would any of us really act any differently?

My one complaint would be that we don't really get a sense of closure with the other family and that Nader gets away too easily morally given the other factors involved. I would have liked to see an additional scene where Razieh reveals to him that she lost her baby because she was looking after her father. Perhaps he didn't directly cause the miscarriage but he should be more sympathetic given the circumstances.

I thought the ending was brilliant as we wait to see who Termeh decides to stay with. That we don't find out really doesn't matter. All we need to know is that the separation is final and that they will all end up as losers, even the winner.


Grade: A

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