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Mitchell's Top 20 Films of 2013: #6 "The Past"

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6. “The Past” - A beautiful woman walks up to and looks through a large bay window at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to find the person she needs to pick up.

Shortly, a 40-something year-old man with a beard and scarf warmly smiles in her direction, and they comfortably wave back and forth.

Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) walk to her car, engage in casual conversation but have small disagreements as she drives to her home.

Director Asghar Farhadi provides clues right away Marie and Ahmad had a close relationship, and it’s soon revealed they are married, but separated.

Unfortunately, we soon discover the reason for Ahmad’s trip from Iran to Paris: the pair will formally divorce, and this opening sequence sets the tone for Farhadi’s thoroughly compelling film.

Farhadi - who also wrote and directed “A Separation” (2011) which won the Best Foreign Language Oscar - is an uncanny master at drawing heaps of dramatic tension through the art of conversation by introducing characters with built-in conflicts and stressers.

Like any great storyteller, he does not reveal his secrets right away.

Over the course of 2 hours and 10 minutes, however, several truths reveal themselves like water drops falling from a leaky faucet at a slow and steady pace.

One absolute truth is Marie's divorce is the least of her problems.

She’s involved in a tangled domestic mess, and the newly inserted Ahmad attempts to bring clarity to a series of half-truths.

He does not necessarily untangle Marie’s issues, but unwittingly shines a bright light on them.

The Past” is an exceptionally written and strongly-acted picture and carries a deeply involving narrative.

The film moves huge swings of emotion with feather-like graze, or sometimes it smashes us over the head with a theatrical sledgehammer.

It is a a complicated and emotionally rich drama which somehow started with a simple and innocent meeting at the airport.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic

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