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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Past (2013)


The more you sleep around, the more drama it creates. What else is new?!?!

To sign some papers for his divorce and, as a result, to complete the whole procedure of it, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives back in France after four years where he meets back-up with his soon-to-be-ex, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), as well as her own daughters from a previous marriage. Ahmad also just so happens to be walking into something far bigger than he had initially intended when he not only realizes Marie is with this new boyfriend of hers (Tahar Rahim), but that there’s a lot concerning his own marriage, that Marie’s oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), is having a bit of a problem understanding and getting clear into her head.

Basically, in other words, there’s just a lot of crazy stuff going on around here that if I got into it, I’d be spoiling, so, let me just put it this way: Everybody yells at one another.

While that may sound boring, tepid and not something you want to venture out and see on-paper, trust me, it’s the furthest thing from being either of those things. In fact, it’s just as emotional and compelling as you’re going to get with anything that has to do with that I, Frankenstein movie. Definitely more tense, because while you think you may have a general-idea as to what this story is going to be about, how it’s all going to play-out and which characters end-up being the cold, heartless son-of-a-bitches that they present to be in the first 20 or so minutes, it doesn’t play-out like that one bit.

Oooh, looks as if somebody said the wrong thing and are about to pay for it....

Oooh, looks as if somebody said the wrong thing and are about to pay for it….

In fact, more things go on here than you may suspect, but it should be noted that everything that does happen here, is done through the act of speaking. Everybody in this flick has conversations with one another, and while some of them may come pretty damn close to converging into violence, they never quite hit that peak. Instead, every conversation a character has with another character, feels like actual people speaking to one another; it doesn’t matter what about, it just matters that they’re speaking to one another and in ways, you can kind of get a sense for who they are, judging by how they hold themselves in these conversations.

I know that I am focusing a lot on the dialogue here, but that’s mainly what this movie is all about. However, it’s not a problem in the slightest bit, all because writer/director Asghar Farhadi knows how to make a dialoge-heavy movie as interesting as humanly possible, just by giving us characters we’re not only intruiged by, but know that there’s more to, than just what they present on the surface. Such the case couldn’t have been even more true here as we see each and every one of these characters shown to us in a light that would have us automatically stereotyping them in some way, form or shape. Sometimes, we’re right to think this and other times, which is a common motif throughout this whole movie, we just don’t know the full story surrounding them.

For instance, the character of the boyfriend, played by Tahar Rahim, seems like a total dick that not only can’t control his own son, but seems to be lending his eyes a bit too heavily to his girlfriend’s teenage-daughter. Also, we hear inklings of how he might have influenced his own wife’s suicide by starting-up this affair with Marie, so that just adds insult to injury for his case. But as time goes on, and we start to see him rationalize the situation he’s in and get a chance to talk it out with everybody around him, we see that he’s just a damaged-guy that yes, has a bit of an anger-issue, but is a genuinely nice guy when he wants to be, and can definitely do the right thing. He’s going through a bit of a rough-patch right now with his wife being in a coma and all, but he’s trying his hardest to get through it all in one piece, and I have to say, I acknowledged that. Not only is Rahim good in the role, but his writing continues to improve over time and have you think that this is just a guy, thrown into a shitty-situation that he may have in fact caused, but is still trying whatever he can to make-up for it.

Same case goes for every other character we have here: Marie starts-off a bit like a psycho beotch that doesn’t have a clue how to raise any kid in the world, let alone, her own, but does seem like the type of woman that wants to make things right between her and everybody else she knows and cares for in her life, mainly Ahmad. It should be said that Bejo is very, very good as Marie because while she never does quite turn that leaf over from being a “crazed-nut-to-simple-person”, she is still very compelling to watch as you’ll never know when she’s going to flip her own switch and raise all sorts of hell. Definitely a lot different from her star-making performance in the Artist, then again though, she’s actually speaking here. So there ya go!

Past2

She must have said something mean to him, because he sure is sad now.

And everything that I said for Bejo and Rahim’s characters, goes exactly the same for Ali Mosaffa’s, however, I do have to say that he impressed me the most here by presenting us with a character that legitimately seems like a nice guy and, for one reason or another, gets thrown into a situation where he’s being fired-at from all cylinders and has to make sense of it all in a cohesive, respectable manner. We never get a full-idea as to why he and Marie’s marriage ended, but what we do hear makes you think that there is a bit of a dark side to him we rarely so often see here, which is a good thing since we’re on his side so much. We know that he’s could easily be considered “the voice of reason”, but more likely, he could also be the only guy willing to pull this whole family back together, even if he isn’t apart of it in the first place. But, nonetheless, he’s a sweet guy who I feel like would give me a ride somewhere if I truly did need it.

That’s generally how I judge people on their “niceness”: Whether or not they would be willing to give me rides somewhere.

So while most of this may just seem like a review on the characters, as well as the performances that inhibit these characters, it’s definitely for a reason. Because, for the bulk of this movie, that’s all you get. Most of it’s just exciting to watch because you never know where this story will lead you next, what secret is about to be revealed, by what character, for what reason, and so on and so forth. And while some of it may get a tad bit ridiculous with how many instances in which people decide not to tell the truth and just be all odd, mysterious and vague about a situation, it still had me guessing at every step. But that’s doing it without any action, blood, car-chases, guns, or explosions; it’s just by simple conversations that can sometimes turn into arguments with the drop of a hat. But nonetheless, they’re simple, realistic conversations that you or I could have. However, it’s definitely a lot more entertaining to watch other people hold those conversations, so see this instead.

Consensus: Not much really “happens” in the Past, but that’s why it needs to be seen. Not just for the wonderful performances from its small, intimate cast, but because everything you see, hear or feel is done so for a reason, and it just adds more complexity to this tale, as well as these characters we’re forced to deal with here.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Past3

And she just gives him that cold-hearted stare that’s sinking deep, beneath into his soul. Think it’s safe to say, she won this battle.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

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24 responses to “The Past (2013)

  1. ninvoid99 January 25, 2014 at 4:05 am

    I saw the film yesterday as I think Ali Mosaffa is very impressive as he is sort of the film’s conscience. He’s the one guy that tries to keep the peace and be attentive towards the children.

  2. CinemaClown January 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    This, in my opinion, is one of the best films of 2013. I’m a big fan of Asghar Farhadi & his ability to create unflinching tension in a story dealing with domestic affairs looks incredibly authentic. Watched & reviewed it 2 months ago, I guess.

    I suggest you check out his previous works too (A Separation, About Elly & Fireworks Wednesday) if you haven’t seen it yet… He’s a remarkable talent.

    • CMrok93 January 26, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I’ve seen A Separation and I think that’s where I sort of knew that he was the real deal. Nice to see my opinions haven’t changed a bit. In fact, if they have, they’ve only improved.

  3. Java Girl January 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I was wondering where I had heard that name before. Lol. I had written a movie review on The Artist. This movie sounds good. I’ll have to check it out! Great review!

  4. mikeyb @ screenkicker January 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Is that the guy out of A Prophet? He’s a fantastic actor

  5. Mark Hobin January 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    One of the very best films of 2013. I love these kind of character studies. Great review!

  6. jjames36 January 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Haven’t managed to catch this one yet. But I really want to.

    And your review makes me want to all the more. Great work.

  7. Whit's Movie Reviews January 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Sounds interesting! I was thinking of checking this out. Great review Dan! Just wondering, are you planning on reviewing I, Frankenstein?

  8. thycriticman January 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I actually think that I may check this out, it looks quite good, and you gave it a fantastic score. I have to point out that this is likely x394839439394 more emotional and compelling than I, Frankenstein.

  9. thomasjford January 25, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Wow, good write up. It’s on the list!

  10. ckckred January 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Nice review. Been eager to see this for quite a while. Farhadi’s really becoming one of the best talents working today.

  11. Victor De Leon January 27, 2014 at 1:11 am

    This looks cool, Dan. I’ll give it a shot. Good job. Thanks!

  12. Zoë January 28, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Great review Dan. This sounds like a film that I should check out!

  13. mymoviesthoughts February 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Tahar Rahim’s role in this film reminded me of his performance in Our Children by Joachim Lafosse.

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