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A Separation
Don Fowler
3 stars
Reviewer's Rating:

(Slow-moving Iranian soap opera)

The Oscar-winning foreign film from Iran is an interesting but slow-moving tale of two families in conflict with each other, each trying to find justice in a bureaucratic court system.

Simin wishes to divorce her husband, Nader, who refuses to leave Iran and go to the United States to start a new life. Nader refuses to leave his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's and doesn't even know who he is. In the middle is their daughter, Termeh, who is used in their divorce by both parents.

To complicate the situation, Simin moves in with her mother, leaving Nader to care for his father and their daughter. He hires a caretaker for his father. She is pregnant but doesn't tell her employer. She leaves the bedridden father alone one day, leading to some serious consequences. Nader reacts physically, and a simple impulsive act leads to criminal charges being filed.

The two families are at each other’s throats. Little white lies are told. There are omissions in statements between a seemingly bureaucratic judge.

The situation looks hopeless as the crisis grows more serious, coming down to one side having to make concessions that the other side can accept, giving the cultural restrictions. We do learn a bit about Iranian life, especially for the middle class, and the cluttered, slow-to-respond court system.

Our problem with the movie was lack of sympathy for most of the characters. Even the mother who wanted a better life for her daughter used her daughter to get her way. The father, who was devoted to his sick father, showed little sympathy or respect for his wife and daughter. The raging husband of the pregnant caretaker was completely out of control most of the time.

The film is well made and the situations could have taken place in an American soap opera. The Iranian location, with its religious rules influencing behavior and decisions, adds an interesting element.

After two hours, we were looking for some resolution to the problems the characters all faced. The filmmakers decided to leave that up to the audience, and we are left without closure. That may be good for further discussion, but we didn't like it.

Rated PG-13, but aimed at an adult audience. English sub-titles, at the Avon.


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