51) A Separation (2011) Dir: Asghar Farhadi Date Released: December 30, 2011 Date Seen: February 4, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5
The first third of this picture is its weakest portion. It's pure set-up but that's ok, since the rest of the film does so much with that set-up. In fact, I'd say that since that's the only almost-weak spot of the picture, A Separation is in pretty great shape (What a relief, right?). Its drama is as gutting as it is because of the cumulative weight of its characters' moral dilemma. This is a film where everyone's actions are being judged by almost everyone else. The judges, the protagonists and their daughters are all judging each other's decisions, sometimes discretely but mostly with just enough visibility that we can't help but see their furtive looks of distrust and unease. The scene where the entire sordid court case is about to be settled and the would-be house-keeper stammers, "I have doubts," is devastating because she's giving voice to all this unease with one meek protest.
That having been said: I can't help but wonder what native Iranian critics think of this film. Its implicit indictment of the Iranian legal system (ie: the court's judgment is only valid insofar as it will immediately affect protagonists; the judge's ethical compass is understood to be compromised) and its semi-loaded initial scenario regarding the religious doctrine that forbids married women from working in other men's homes suggest that Farhadi is reactively creating a worst case scenario based on the worst of Iranian social conventions. It's the system that's implicitly under attack here and that's essentially what fucks up the protagonists. So I wonder what film critics that are more familiar with those social and judicial codes think of A Separation. Because, and I could be totally off-base here, this seems like a film that's pleading for tolerance and understanding from an ideal Western audience.