In a society built on high morality, is it better to be honest if the truth could damage you, or lie to protect those around you? This telling question is the foundation of A Separation, the 2012 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Picture, that shows a bitter legal battle between two strained families determined to find the truth behind a tragic event.
The film centers around modern-day Iran where a couple, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaddi), plan on separating because Simin wants to move their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), to a safer country. Because Nader and Termeh want to stay and take care of his father with Alzheimer’s and Simin wants to move in with her mother, he has to hire a maid, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), to take care of him. When Razieh ties Nader’s father to a bed while she does her errands, she is pushed out of the house and fired by Nader.
But tensions begin to escalate when he discovers, from Simin, that moments after being pushed, Razieh was sent to the hospital and had a miscarriage. From then on, the pressure begins to overwhelm them all as Nader wonders if he was the one who caused her to miscarry. Meanwhile, Razieh’s husband, Houjat (Shahab Hosseini), begins to play mind games with them. These factors start spilling into the family’s private life.
What makes the film excel is that it builds the story within the characters themselves, rather than around them. Their natural performances are what make the film come alive as each actor and actress allows you to enter into their mind, making them sympathetic, even at their worst. They force you to make the tough choice of who to side with.
Some of the best acting in the film is from Moaddi and Hosseini, as Nader and Houjat respectively, with Nader trying to prove his innocence no matter the cost so that he can support his father and daughter. Houjat’s best acting comes from when he is at his most volatile, pleading for Nader to pay for the overwhelming damage he felt when he lost his child.
The women also do a terrific job, with Hatami depicting Simin as a woman dedicating every fabric of her being to protecting her daughter from conflict, despite being lambasted by Nader for always running away from problems. Bayat’s performance as Razieh was very impressive in showing multiple layers of what could have been a deplorable character, by having her problems shown in full display. Her desperation for money clashed with her insurmountable guilt over possibly going against her religious beliefs. And for a young actress in her middle school years, Farhadi is amazing as Termeh, who is an intelligent girl pushed to her limits when her suspicions of whether her father knew of Razieh’s pregnancy start to weigh down on her. This causes her to break down as she wonders whether her mother, whom she previously disliked, is the better parent.
A Separation is a brilliant piece that is guaranteed to hit at your core and your mind, as the families’ struggles feel real enough to reflect their emotions onto the audience. With every passing moment in the film, you build a relationship with the characters, trying to discover who they are and what they stand for, as you join them in trying to find the truth.
I highly recommend that you see A Separation for an experience that will pull you in from start to finish.
A Separation is playing at the FAU Living Room Theater at 5:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m., and 9:45 p.m., and on weekends at 12:20 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.