Everyone seeks justice. But when justice is viewed by different eyes, conflict occurs. With this conflict come pain, fears, and doubts. In this 2011 Iranian drama film, A Separation takes us into the lives of an Iranian middle-class couple and the complications that their separation and an impending case bring in.
The movie is a picture of several lives. In one hand, we have Nader and Simin, a couple who have been married for 14 years and living in Tehran, Iran. They have an 11-year-old daughter named Termeh. Simin wants to leave the country with her family because she does not want their daughter to grow up in the prevailing conditions. However, Nader does not share this desire as he wishes to stay and take care of his elderly father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. When Nader decides to stay in Iran, Simin files for divorce. Yet, her application is rejected by the judge and the family continues to live with the diseased old man.
On the other hand, we have Razieh, a young, deeply religious woman from a poor district. She has a hot-headed husband who is a strict Muslim. When Nader opens hiring a caregiver for his father, Razieh applies for the job without telling her husband. The job becomes overwhelming for Razieh, for in a culture where there is clear demarcation between a man and a woman, she finds it uneasy to clean a man not her husband. She sees the work very hard, especially when she learns she is pregnant.
Soon, a pivotal event shakes this edgy harmony established by these people. One day, upon returning to their house, Nader and Termeh is stunned to see their elder lying unconsciously on the bedroom floor, with one arm tied to the bed. Razieh is nowhere to be found. When she gets back, Nader accuses her of negligence and of stealing money from his room. Razieh protests her innocence and after a heated confrontation, Nader accidentally shoves Razieh and she falls in the stairway on the way out of the building. She suffers a miscarriage. And with this, a long complex case ensues….
To protect her father, Termeh comes up with a false statement…. To protect her daughter, Simin secretly arranges a financial deal with Razieh and her husband Hodjat…. As Razieh has been earlier hit by a car, Nader begins to doubt whether his action caused the miscarriage and becomes more resolute with his ideals.… In fear of Hodjat, Razieh begins to mistrust herself and her belief…. And with this complication, will this be a better timing for a divorce case?
A Separation is a very intelligent film, dealing gently with very sensitive issues. It takes us into modern-day Iran, a highly-conservative Muslim country. The film exemplifies how faith and law comes into clash with one’s spirit and conscience. This is a universal truth for all religion and countries, that written laws or scriptures do not always play in harmony with human nature. In the movie, we see people desperately trying to live good lives despite trying situations. In the process of seeking righteousness in these troubled times, they are only confronted with more confusing and painful realities. The movie title fits well, as it depicts crossing boundaries between faith and moral principles, laws and conscience, culture and ideals, and beliefs and truths. Towards the end, the daughter faces a dilemma of choosing between what is right and what is good.
The movie is also fast-paced and direct. It offers us a quick glimpse of the Iranian life and culture. Despite the empathic and heart-breaking theme, it portrays Iran in a subtly beautiful way, highlighting the strengths of the way of life of its people. The actors are great and believable as well, as they offer a genuine and plausible performance.
The movie is positively received. It garnered a rating of 99% at Rotten Tomatoes, 95% at Metacritic, and 8.5/10 at IMDb. It received several nominations and wins in different award bodies, including Asian Film Award, Cesar Award, Golden Globe Awards, and Academy Awards.
Rating. The film deserves a five-star rating and a standing ovation.