A Separation
Written and Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring Peyman Noadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi

A Separation just won the Oscar for the best foreign language film. It may have also been the best movie I saw from the 2011 nominees in any category.

PLOT: Set in contemporary Iran, A Separation is easily the most psychologically complex and harrowing movie I have seen in a long time. Iranian religion, law, government, their family structure all manage to place impediments on the journey toward a better life for this upper-middle class family.

A husband and wife separate. She (Hatami) wants to leave Iran with her husband and daughter—hoping her daughter, a very bright six-grader, will have a better life abroad, He (Moadi) refuses to leave his senile father behind. His wife goes home to her parents and the father hires a woman (Bayat) to care for his father, a duty his wife formerly performed. Traveling from a distant part of Tehran, she brings her small child along with her

The hired woman finds caring for his father difficult. He is unable to care for himself at all and leaves the apartment if the opportunity presents itself. She has issues of her own, which I will not divulge. When it appears that she has stolen some money and left the father alone, the husband fires her. When she asks for her money and tries to explain herself, he pushes her out the door.

This quick action begins a long string of events, which lead to a court case. That’s all you need to know because the less you know going into this film, the better. This is a film where everyone has good motives but things still turn out badly. Everyone has a heroic moment and everyone lies at some point. Some lies are self-serving, but many seem like the lesser of evils.

The portrait of Iran here is of a society that values education but had antiquated notions of justice. This is a film that should be seen by students of conflict resolution. It perfectly captures just how hard such a thing can be when real people are involved.

A perfect movie if you are willing to dig in. Highly recommended.

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