Winning an Oscar, especially one as prestigious as Best Foreign Language Picture, automatically sets expectations sky high. Recent winners include The Sea Inside, The Lives of Others, The Counterfeiters and The Secret in Their Eyes, all exceptional films. Unfortunately, the most recent recipient of the award, the Iranian drama A Separation, falls short of "exceptional".
A Separation is a very well done movie that simply doesn't meet expectations. That doesn't mean it isn't worth seeing. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the movie follows Nader (Peyman Moadi), whose life hits a crossroads when his wife Simin (Leila Hatami) leaves him. He is forced to hire a young mother named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to help to attend to his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's. After an incident, he literally pushes the woman out the door, setting into motion a series of events that will test his will and honor.
Moadi, Hatami and the rest of the cast deliver fine performances in their respective roles, but the film's strength lies in the increasingly complex story that Farhadi slowly unfolds. The drama evolves from a simple character study to one that is both a he-said/she-said legal analysis and an examination of morals and perceptions of truth.
A Separation becomes increasingly interesting as it progresses, but also takes a while to get to the point. Farhadi presents some interesting ideas masked under the veil of normal life, but the movie failed to take hold of me like some of those aforementioned films. Perhaps it's unfair to compare such unrelated films, but there are only 60-plus movies that have ever received such an honor; certain expectations were set the moment it won, let alone nominated.
A Separation is worth seeing, but don't expect it to have the same impact as some previous Best Foreign Language winners.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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