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'A Separation' Explores Life in Modern Tehran

  • Penelope Poulou

A Separation by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi pulls the curtain back on life in modern Tehran. The story is about an unhappy marriage, the lack of support in caring for the elderly and a cumbersome bureaucracy wedged between religious custom and legal parameters. The film won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film and could even nab an Oscar. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more

The film opens in divorce court with Nader, a bank employee, and his estranged wife Simin, a doctor, appearing before a judge.

Simin is filing for divorce because she wants to leave the country. Simin feels if they left, life would improve for them and their daughter Termeh. But Nader refuses to go. He says he needs to tend to his father who suffers from Alzheimer's. We watch the couple's strained faces as they argue their case. We don't see the judge. In a sense, we are the judge.

Although the court refuses to grant the divorce, Nader and Simin agree on an informal separation. In Simin's absence, Nader hires a working class woman to help look after his father. The woman is negligent, and Nader's dad has a near fatal accident. Nader gets into an argument with the caretaker.

The argument escalates, and Nader pushes the woman out of the house. The caretaker files a complaint against Nader. She tells the court she was pregnant and claims she lost the baby because of Nader shoved her. Nader says he had no idea the woman was pregnant.

The cast of characters is caught in a web of deception and despair. Peyman Moaadi plays Nader, a decent but stubborn man who sees his world crumbling around him.

Termeh, 11, played by the director's daughter, Sarina Farhadi, offers a heartbreaking performance as the innocent girl who lies to keep her family together. Sareh Bayat interprets the caretaker, a deeply pious working-class woman who distorts the truth for money.

Asghar Farhadi's drama offers up a society where lying is a sin, but its people are forced to bend the truth to overcome dubious court rulings, religious codes of ethics and day-to-day misery.

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