A Separation (2011)

Nobody in Iran seems to be happy.

The story focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple (Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi) who separate, and the conflicts that begin to arise when the husband hires a lower-class carer for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Right from the beginning of this movie you feel as if you know exactly what it’s going to be about and why. For instance, the first scene of this movie of is a discussion this couple has in front of the court over why they want to get divorced, what the stipulations are, and what’s to come of it in the meantime. You automatically think that this is going to be a simple story about two people, who were once in-love and once happy, now have all of a sudden decided to separate from one another and call it quits. That’s already a pretty interesting, if simple story, but that discussion of divorce, is the only type of it we actually get whereas the next 90 minutes are all about what happens to these two people once they decide to not live together. However, I feel as if I have told you too much as it is.

See, this one of those flicks where you can only tell so much, yet also, so little because you don’t want to give everything away about the story as it may just spoil every, tiny bit of info this movie will have planned and ready to surprise you once it all pops-out. You think it’s all about divorce, you think it’s all about this couple falling-apart, and you think it’s all about these two people never being able to be happy with one-another ever again, but you don’t know Jack about the story, and trust me, I didn’t either and that’s what’s so surprising about this flick. It takes you into places and areas you never thought you’d find yourself in with this flick, and what makes it even better is the fact that writer/director Asghar Farhadi knows how to make a compelling flick, almost by doing nothing behind-the-scenes.

"I can still hear you breathing!"
“I can still hear you breathing!”

Farhadi does a great-job behind-the-camera because he never, not for once, gets in the way of the story he’s trying to tell, nor does he get in the way of the actors way of portraying it. He just lets it all spill-out right in front of our own eyes and it’s a simple, yet smart-take on a story that could have been so annoying and so confusing, had Farhadi decided to stick his nose into too much. People will probably complain that this flick is way too talky and way too much about people fighting and arguing about who did what, how, and why, but that’s what makes it so damn interesting. The discussions these people have feel real and natural and as you sit-there wondering just what the hell really happened with the situation these characters find themselves stuck in, and just what’s to actually come of it. Farhadi has a natural-ear for dialogue and it’s nothing flashy, nothing witty, and not anything that’s going to make you feel like you’re watching the Iranian version of a Mamet-play, it’s just plain, simple, and raw to the point of where you feel like everything you hear and see is as real and believable as it can get. You don’t get to see that much in films nowadays, especially ones about domestic-disputes, even though, you’re sure to find that this flick is less about that theme and more about the others that surround Iran at it’s present-time in today’s day and age.

I’m really surprised that Farhadi was able to get the financial-backing for this flick and even get it released in Iran, mainly because it talks a lot of crap on Iran, it’s government, and just how it treats it’s citizens. Actually, I wouldn’t say that it does a whole bunch of shit-talking, but it does bring up a lot of controversial points about the way they run their government and it’s sure to make you think just why the hell people put-up with the crap they do over there. Obviously these are questions us Americans, in our beautiful, suburban homes ask everyday, but the film at least makes it reasonable enough to see why the people live there, and why others, simply want to get-out but just can’t whether it be political, domestic, or religious issues the government has with that person in-question. Once again, it’s pretty effed-up the way they live over there but then again, they may just be saying the same thing about us over here so I can’t really bad mouth them too much because in reality, they are human just like you or me.

Apparently, out of all of the things that Iran does believe in, sidewalks aren't one of them.
Apparently, out of all of the things that Iran does believe in, sidewalks aren’t one of them.

Being human is also another point that this movie brings out very, very well throughout the whole 2 hour and 3 minute time-limit, and it’s an even-stronger point, due to the amazing cast that Farhadi has been able to assemble here. I, for one, have never really been a huge-watcher of Iranian cinema, but I can definitely say that everybody in this cast is great and it’s obvious that Farhadi knows exactly just who the hell he’s working with here, because everybody fits their roles perfectly, no matter how big or small. Leila Hatami is very strong and powerful as the main female in this flick, named Simin, and really gives us a character that’s worth holding onto and believing in, no matter how much it seems like she’s trying too hard. Not only does Hatami have an utter-sense of beauty to her that makes her stand-out in every scene she’s in, but her look on her face just features ounces of amounts of pain and sadness that lie behind her eyes and it’s not hard to feel the slightest-bit of sympathy for her, mainly because she just wants to be loved and help out the people around her that she does love in-return.

Peyman Maadi plays her estranged hubby, Nader, and does a great job with a character that could have really gone down the deuche-route, but still, makes it more interesting and sympathetic than I ever expected. Without giving too much away about this guy and what he does to cause this flick to go on and on for about 2 hours, he does an act of anger that is disputed throughout the whole flick, that leaves you wondering what really happened and how, but even better, is the questions you’ll be asking yourself about this guy in-general. He seems like he loves his daughter, his wife, and his father, but he can be so stubborn and shallow about the simplest-things that it makes you wonder about who he really is, and whether or not he’s a guy we should give a lick or two about, or just sit-back, be happy, and put a grin on our faces as he takes the noose. Seriously, this guy’s character is all-over-the-place, but in the good way as you don’t know whether or not he’s a guy you can like, care for, and actually trust, or just some dude you should want to see have his life be pulled-apart in front of his very-own eyes. Just like the rest of the film, you’ll be wondering more and more about what’s really going on underneath it all and I still don’t know how I feel about this guy or his motivations in-life. He definitely married the right woman though, that’s fo damn sho.

One sides evil, and the other side is, well, still evil.
One side is evil, and the other side is, well, still evil.

This film, for the longest-time, was doing such a magnificent job at keeping me alive, keeping me awake, keeping me interested, and best of all, keeping me into having the belief that everybody and everything, is exactly like real-life and could happen to you or me. However, that started to go-away once there was more to be developed about Sareh Bayat’s character here, what she does, how she does it, and why she does it and as mysterious or suspenseful as it may have been to some, it really bothered me because her character definitely isn’t the smartest out of the bunch and the flick doesn’t really show that for what it is, it sort of makes us try and feel sympathy for her, when in reality, I just couldn’t. I don’t want to get into the logistics as to why I just didn’t and couldn’t buy her character for all that she was, but whatever it was about her, she seemed to be a bit too dumb for the rest of the movie that built itself so well on believeability and understandings of the human mind and soul. Maybe I sounded a bit too hippie-ish right there, but you get my drift. I hope.

Consensus: A Separation may seem to repetitive and conversational for some people, but it’s just like any, ordinary thriller that you watch and waste your life on watching nowadays, except with subtitles, more thoughts about humans and why we act the way we do, and probably, hell, without a doubt, more suspense and twists that you rarely ever see coming.


Sunglasses are still hip.
No matter how sad you may be, sunglasses still make you look bad-ass.


  1. Thanks for the review – I’ve decided to do an IMDB Top 250 movie challenge for 2013 and this is on the list and it’s one of the ones I was least looking forward to watching. Sounds like it’s more interesting than I thought.

  2. I loved this film. It helped to shed some of the preconceptions I had about Iran which we are fed in the West. I also enjoyed the twists and human story. I liked your in depth review. You covered pretty much all the bases, I especially agree about what you say with regards to everyone fitting their roles perfectly.

    • Thanks Tom! You can really look at this flick in so many ways, understand it all for what it is, and try to get a finer-clue, but for right now, I think I’m good. I’m still impressed as hell, though.

  3. This film made me want to take a vacation to visit lovely Iran. It’s like a long trip to the DMV but the snarky employees all have guns.

  4. I like seeing how filmmakers could turn out such a very simple, probably predictable topic into an outstanding movie, and that’s why I like “A Separation”. Because sometime many things around us are invisible but “dangerous”. Farhadi smartly captured it and processed it into such a wonderful film with deep moral lessons. Agree with most of your opinions about this film, nice review 🙂

  5. Everybody was talking about how great this movie was. I thought it was good, but I was not blown away by it. I think the cultural barrier is major factor of me not loving this movie.

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