A Separation Directed by Asghar Farhadi Divorce, Iranian-style

A Separation is two hours of stress and an Inception-like ending. From the very beginning of writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s film (Iran’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar), folks are yelling. Specifically, Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) bicker as a judge weighs Simin’s request for a divorce. Wary of the social climate in Iran, Simin wants to move abroad with their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director’s kid). Nader refuses to leave because he’s the sole caretaker of his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer’s. (“He doesn’t even know that he’s his son. What difference does it make to him?” she says coldly.) So Simin wants out of their 14-year marriage, and in the meantime moves in with her mother, leaving Termeh behind.

All that would be sufficient fodder for a typical family drama, but there’s much more to this story. Razieh (Sareh Bayat) is a God-fearing woman who starts to look after Nader’s dad but is concerned about the religious implications of, say, changing the man’s underwear (not to mention her own pregnancy). She already has an adorable little girl named Somayeh, played by Kimia Hosseini, who will later serve as the eyes and ears of what goes on in the house and at home.

What happens between Razieh and Nader is best left discovered by the viewer, but let’s just say it’s all incredibly compelling stuff—this isn’t a film that makes you look at your watch. It’s true that throughout almost the entire running time, one character or another is arguing or raising his or her voice, but these spats are never a burden; Farhadi knows how to move his plot at high pitch, all the way up to the angst-ridden open ending. (Grr.) The central couple’s impending divorce becomes almost an afterthought amid the father’s heartbreaking senility and the stress on Razieh’s face that anyone with a declining elderly parent will recognize. You also pity poor Termeh, who helps take care of her grandfather as best as an 11-year-old can. Shot using a handheld camera and boasting terrific performances from its all-ages cast, A Separation feels like a peek through a neighbor’s window.

Our Readers Say


Dear tricia
Stressful, yelling and shouting all the way to the end, high pitch, arguing one onother. these negative refrences to the film that you have delicately placed through out your review are almost as smart as those beuatifull issues and facts , farhadi placed in between the layers of his film. I understand its not easy to openly dis an inteligent movie thats being praised by the whole world and is going to over shadow your sponser's big budget dum'vie. this is the film critics say ''masterpiece is too mild of a compliment for it'' and 'you wont keep checking your watch' is the best you could do? some times if you have nothing nice to say, you shoud say nothing at all.
This movie is a masterpiece indicating how Iranians are great people and how they can handle all the pressure in their lives with grace and humanity. It shows how a woman can take care of her family, her husband and his father like her own. which is only understandable when she is not there. It shows how much pressure right now is on these people and how nice and gracefully they are handeling all that. There are so many isuues in between lines that you can not read them easily unless you have a very high IQ as the director of the movie.

If your critics are only: "Stressful, yelling and shouting all the way to the end, high pitch, arguing one onother", then I should say you only heard the noise not the meaning!!!
As the result I would suggest if one dose not have anything to say, one should think again and evaluate what is right to be said.
Maybe I am partial to the film because I have experienced similar tragedies but I thought this film to be an absolute work of art. Ms Olszewski's review seems to reveal quite a bit of skewed vision and for lack of a better word, immaturity. Just to make clear, I am not some highbrowed arthouse buff, but even I would know better than to describe this acclaimed film as "two hours of stress" where a bunch of "folks are yelling". It may be time for the Washington City Paper to be on the lookout for a slightly more enlightened individual so that Ms Olszewski can focus solely on her day job.. whatever that may be.
Dont expect much from someone whose facebook profile picture says "Im in theatre hating your movie".
I agree with Mohsen....it's not a pro movie critic....
Dear Ms. Tricia Olszewski , it seems you haven't read between the lines, in fact the separation is not about the separation of the couple, it is about the separation of Iranian generations ! Please watch it again keeping in mind that the father is the symbol of Iran before revolution....there is so much symbolisim and metaphoric features that the director used that you have totally over looked

Probably Ms Olszewski has no Idea about Iranian cinema. Her shallow review of the film is absolutely shocking.
Dear Ms. Olszewski,
There is more to this movie than is seen on the surface. I shall go into some detail. You may wonder why should the writer-director be so circumspect in telling a story. I guess the artistic language helps him to navigate below the radar monitor of sensors both of the Iranian kind and the western main-stream media kind that you even may not feel that it exists! Not an easy task.
In spite of the apolitical appearance of the movie, most Iranian and some western informed viewers sense in-there some metaphors of a political nature.
In the opening scene, Nader says he does not want to leave Iran for many reasons and when challenged by Simin to name one, he mentions his father's need for care and sympathy in the state he is in. To Simin this seems like an excuse. Nader, a man whose honesty and integrity is confirmed, should be seeking a better future for his family in the West, rather than stay behind, helping a father whose situation is fast becoming irreversible through Alzheimer's. Then, as the argument builds up, we finally hear laud and clear the Two World Views' :
Simin (Modern)- Does your father any longer know you are his son?
Nader (Patriotic)- But I know he is my father!
The sick father, who no longer knows him but needs his love, his care and his protection so dearly and cannot be left behind in such a state, is of course IRAN!
This interpretation is confirmed when Nader accuses Simin, in a later scene, that she has always been weak and tried to escape when conditions get tough, whereas one has to stand up and face the challenges ahead,.........sanctions or worse!
This comment is intended to bring out another layer of complexity woven into the fabric of this outstanding movie of all times and places. Value-judgment about the characters is not my intention. Indeed if Mr. Farhadi should forgives me for disclosing this before he wins the Oscars, I would like to claim that, in-spite of the skillful impartiality that he has shown in treating the characters in his movie, his real personal sympathies lie with Nader. This he tries to hide from you. I shall attempt to explain.
In the opening scene we observe that the question of leaving IRAN or staying there, under the given CIRCUMSTANCES, is such an important issue that is tearing up an otherwise successful marriage. Well now, what are the reasons for leaving? Simin comes out clearly; to escape from CIRCUMSTANCES in Iran for hopefully better life opportunities in the West. So, little fear of iranian censors there. But, what are the reasons for not leaving? Here we hear from Nader that there are a thousand. Simin challenges him to name one. And when Nader mentions his demented father, she retorts that this is only an excuse! Yet the director chooses to spend the next two hours of our time, and God knows how much of his own, to take us through what is at best one reason among many, and at worst only an excuse! This makes sense only if this reason, the father with Alzheimer's, is construed by the director to symbolize the way Nader (Farhadi) connects to IRAN and its its present predicament. His country, though partially forgetful of his sons, does need him and people like him. Here he is wise to hide from both sensors! The Iranian sensors do not mind the dissatisfied leaving, and the main-stream western media revels in this. On the other hand, both may consider patriots out of tune with their Weltanschaung.
Having yesterday read a recent interview Mr. Farhadi gave to the press, there remains little doubt that Nader in the movie is speaking for Farhadi and the father with Alzheimer’s stands for his country. In the interview Farhadi is asked about rumors that he plans to leave Iran for good. His answer is a categorical No! His reason basically being that if politicians running IRAN (and for that matter America) are narrow minded and do not recognize the contribution that film makers like him are making towards enriching the cultural scene and filling the divide, then he feels even more compelled to stay back,where he can best work and face the challenges,fulfill his duty towards his people. Is this not what Nader tells Simin in the opening scene of the movie, albeit in a language that could pass both censors, thus:

- Does your father know you are his son anymore?
- But I know he is my Father!

In other words, responsibility lies with the one who knows!




















































































Having yesterday read a recent interview Mr. Farhadi gave to the press, there remains no doubt in my mind that Nader in the movie is speaking for Farhadi and the father with Alzheimer’s stands for his country. In the interview Farhadi is asked about rumors that he plans to leave Iran for good. His answer is a categorical No! His reason basically being that if politicians running IRAN (and for that matter America) are narrow minded and do not recognize the contribution that film makers like him are making towards enriching the cultural scene, then he feels even more compelled to stay back, face the challenges, and fulfill his duty towards his people. Is this not what Nader tells Simin in the opening shot of the movie, albeit in a language that could pass the censors, thus:

- Does your father know you are his son anymore?
- But I know he is my Father!

In other words, responsibility lies with the one who knows!
Maybe you're all missing my words "incredibly compelling stuff." I thought the film was terrific.
This is by far one of the best acting I have seen anywhere, even better acting than many of the USA actors. Im VERY impressed!

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