A Separation (2011) Review

On the surface, A Separation is a very personal display of the uncertainty a family must face when parents choose to dissolve a marriage. However, at its heart, this film is an example of the infinite love between parent and child – a gift only permeable from within.

Asghar Farhadi has crafted a phenomenally executed masterpiece from beginning to end. Set in Iran, his core idea is whether a child is better affected raised in the land of origin or by immigration. By his own admission, the director has devised a detective story where the real detectives are the audience.

Leila Hatami as Simin is a mother caught between the life she knows with her husband and the possibility of greater opportunities away from him, for both her and her child. Her husband, Peyman Maadi as Nader, is a dutiful son, inconvenienced by his wife’s absence.

The struggle between these two dissimilar and, yet, cohesive ideas is how each individual responds to the separation from the other. Nader attempts to carry on with his life as though little to nothing has changed. Dinner is still on the table on time and he oversees the completion of his daughter’s homework. He doesn’t miss a day of work.

Simin, set on going forth with her life abroad takes one last opportunity to assist the family she is leaving, hence, the child who chose to live without her. Simin encourages a woman in desperate need of employ to interview for the position of housekeeper to her now broken home. This seems a coup, as both women are trusting in the greatest good either can hope to accomplish for herself and her family amid such dire straits.

As convenience lends way to necessity, Nader must acknowledge the precariousness of his current situation and thusly, the severity of the effect his ailing father is having on his life which is compounded by his wife’s absence. Sharing a home with his infirm parent, he welcomes Razieh, (Sareh Bayat) a friend of Simin’s by association to come and attend to the needs of his father.

The simplicity of this arrangement becomes a tour de force to the sensibilities of the modest and devout Razieh. She is compelled to make decisions that bear incalculable outcomes. Soon, the family is confronted with overwhelming lies and suppositions that threaten to ruin the livelihoods of all involved parties for many generations to come. Audiences will feel the crescendo and lose themselves in the intrigue that is a gross transition for the decent and hardworking families of this particular story.

Two women on opposite sides of the same inconvenience face more uncertain futures than either could have anticipated. Each has a child she is willing to purge herself to protect. Each has a husband blinded by visions of personal justice and retribution. Each is humbled by her faith in herself to save her family.

Set against the backdrop of civil war and offering a contrast to common preconceptions of Iranian women, A Separation is a story of empowerment. It reveals the weight of each decision a person can make. On the forefront are two very different families facing very different struggles. Yet, each is most affected by the matriarch and her dedication and loyalty to her faith.

Shot on location in Iran, the authenticity of daily life is given a maligned beauty. American audiences will relate to the dichotomy of the social classes right down to the paved sidewalks of the more affluent neighborhoods versus the dusty roads of lower income areas. Children wear uniforms to school. Subtle societal differences are consistent reminders of the ongoing plight of individuality and acceptance. Men have their own space and women have another – right down to traveling by bus

By definition, the word separation implies the ability to draw a finite line between or to cause to move apart. The power supporting such a notion, in this instance, is built on displaced allegiance. A Separation, ambles along as each character settles into his/her respective place in the story; each a piece to a puzzle that claims no heroes or victors in the balance and equilibrium of existence.

A wife is separated from her husband. A child is separated from a parent; and everyone becomes separated from the truth. The agony and melancholy of the subject matter fail to tarnish the endearing and spiritual journey that is A Separation; a film that reminds all that unconditional love was never intended to be easy.