Now Playing: A Potent Iranian Drama

If a film can offer bold new insight into a foreign culture, I’m on board. Some movies can instantly reel me in, capturing me with their intriguing and educational points of view. ‘A Separation’ is not only one of these movies, but one of the best foreign films of the year.

‘A Separation’ begins with an Iranian couple sitting down in front of a judge. The woman, Simin, wants a divorce because her husband, Nader, isn’t willing to move their small family to a nearby country with more opportunities. He also refuses to give permission for Simin to take their daughter, should she decide to make the move without him. He doesn’t want to leave, give up their daughter or even divorce because he loves his wife and daughter, but can’t justify leaving behind his invalid father who requires constant care. Since their family is already well-off, and they don’t really need more opportunities, the judge declines Simin’s request for divorce.

Stubborn and displeased by the judge’s ruling, Simin decides to leave Nader and their teenage daughter Termeh to move back with her parents. Before they can officially separate, Nader must find a housekeeper who can stay with his father during the day. Desperate, he hires the first person who applies for the job, a lower-class woman named Razieh. A few days into the job, Nader returns from work to find the apartment empty and his father tied to the bed. When Razieh innocently strolls in a few minutes later, he freaks out on her. When she refuses to leave, he pushes her out into the stairwell and tells her to never come around again.

Later that night, Nader and Simin receive word that Razieh has been hospitalized due to slipping on the stairs during the altercation. Worried, they meet up at the hospital to check on her. It turns out that she’s over halfway through a pregnancy and claims to have lost the child when pushed out of the apartment. Now, Razieh and her angry husband are pressing charges for the murder of their unborn child. What ensues is an intense drama that offers an intimate look into Iranian society and the insanely disorganized process called a judicial system there.

Considering the dark and heavy subject matter of this PG-13 drama, it’s riveting and informative, a great study of deep characters and a foreign culture’s societal and civic norms. The performances across the board are just as good, if not better, than anything award-worthy that has come from American cinema this year. Opening with a limited release starting today, ‘A Separation’ is being given a platform release that will slowly expand across the U.S. in the following weeks.

Rating: ★★★★½

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