A Separation – movie review

A Separation is a 2011 Iranian movie which won the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy award in 2012. It takes place entirely in Iran with Iranian actors and an Iranian director. The language is in Persian with English subtitles.

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For Americans watching it it fascinating to see  everyday life for a ordinary family in Iran.  What strikes an American watcher immediately is that the United States plays no part in the film.  America is never mentioned and has no role in the family’s life.

The story is about a couple which is going through a divorce. The wife Simin (played by Lelia Hatami) has gotten a well-paying job in Europe. She wants her husband and daughter to move to Europe with her.  Her husband Nadir (played by Sahab Hosseini) refuses to go since he does not want to leave behind his aging father who has Alzheimer’s Disease. The father lives with them in a small apartment.

Nadir has a low level job at a bank and earns much less than his wife. Simin does not understand why her husband will not put the father in a nursing home and make the move to Europe. But Nadir cannot bear to abandon his father even though Simin insists on a divorce if Nadir does not move with her.

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The couple cannot reconcile and a divorce means that their young daughter will have to choose which parent see wants to live with. This is when we get to see what Family Court is like in Iran. Western watcher will be surprised at how similar it is to U.S. Family Court.  It is crowded and stressful for both sides. The overworked judge is legitimately trying to make a determination on what is best for the child.

As in real life, just when you think things cannot get any more stressful for this family, they do. The family has hired a woman to come in for a few hours each day and watch over the ailing father. She is pregnant and her husband is out of work, so she has taken this part time job without her husband’s knowledge.

Nadir does not think she is taking proper care of the father. Without giving away too much of the plot we will say that there is in incident where the woman is injured. Nadir claims she simply slipped and she says she was pushed.  This gets the whole family involved in new set of Iranian courts and involved with the woman’s unemployed husband who is a violent hothead.

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This is an amazingly well done film. You have empathy for all the characters. The movie does not take sides. It simply presents each of the characters as in-depth multifaceted people. It has tension and drama and even mystery. There are some parts where different characters give conflicting stories of the same events and the audience is left to decide who is telling the truth.

Many people do not like watching movies with subtitles, but in this case it works in the film’s favor. Dubbing this movie would ruin  it. To understand the people you need to hear their real voices and their real language.

This is the type of film you will think about long after you have seen it. You will defiantly come away from the film realizing that the people in Iran are real individuals with lives maybe not as different from yours as you once believed.

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