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“A Separation” (2011) Review

A Separation poster

I have been interested in seeing “A Separation” for a while now. This Iranian drama focuses on the separation of Nader and Simin, a married couple who have decisive views regarding care for Nader’s father and moving outside the country for the sake of their daughter, Termeh. With this simple basis, the film evolves nicely into a much more complicated situation as the fates of multiple people and families become intertwined after a series of serious accusations take place. On the whole, “A Separation” is a unique film with a ton of potential that gets held back by some development and design flaws.

The first thing worth noting is the cinematography, as Farhadi’s skill becomes apparent in the opening scene. Here, Nader and Simin are embroiled in a discussion regarding their divorce with a judge. The camera angle takes the point of view of the judge’s eyes (as the judge remains off-screen, and the scene is done in one continuous shot. This opening sets the pace for some skillful camera movement and scene design. Every scene shows such close attention to detail, while still managing to add to the depth of the story, including the closing credits that take a similar, yet evolved, approach as the opening.

This is not the only category that Farhadi succeeds in. His tale of two couple’s struggles, their children, and how their families’ fates become linked evolves slowly and follows an unpredictable path that keeps your attention. The plot manages to raise an emotional response in the viewer at many points, as each characters’ struggles are touching with most audience members having some sort of connection in one way or another. Where the plot stumbles and the movie begins to lose its steam is in the length of this story. At many points it is extended for too long, with some unneccessary scenes and sluggish plot resolution. Another negative lies in the ending. I have no issue with the actual ending scene (though I’m sure many will), as I felt it was pretty clever and right in line with the theme of the rest of the film. What the issue happens to be, however, is the lack of resolution regarding the characters not directly involved in the conclusion. The stories of those outside of Nader, Simin, and Termeh are left hanging, leaving a sense of incompleteness to the plot despite its overall great development.

The single shot, opening scene of the film is very well done and sets the stage for the great acting and tense story that are about to unfold.

The single shot, opening scene of the film is very well done and sets the stage for the great acting and tense story that are about to unfold.

To make the plot that much more powerful, Leila Hatami and Payman Maadi give incredible performances as Simin and Nader. In fact, the entire cast does a great job of giving every scene, whether calm or intense, a natural and completely believable feel. The characters are written well, and the acting gives them tremendous depth. All around, great performances are given in “A Separation”.

With these pieces in place, “A Separation” has a lot of potential and at its best has no problem holding the viewer’s attention. There are many positives that can make the film an easy recommendation, but it’s lengthy, dragged out story and poorly developed ending hold it back from ever reaching its peak. Still, anyone looking for a tense drama that feels like a breath of fresh air in the drama genre should enjoy “A Separation”.

Final Score: 7.5/10

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