One of the best films in recent years that you probably haven't seen is Asghar Farhadi's A Separation. That 2011 Oscar-winning film was a powerful family drama written and directed by Farhadi and left the world waiting for his next project. Well, his follow-up film, The Past (opening today) has arrived and does not disappoint, cementing Farhadi's status as one of the most intriguing and talented directors currently working.
His new film is also a family drama, more interested in the study of real people than in creating contrived situations. It stars Berenice Bejo, the Oscar-nominated silent star of the 2012 film, The Artist, as Marie, a mother who has requested a divorce from her estranged husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who returns once he is summoned to finalize things. Upon his return, he has discovered that Marie is in a relationship with another man, Samir (Tahar Rahim), who has a son of his own, Fouad (Elyes Aguis). Complicating things, Fouad's mother - Samir's wife - is in a coma.
This is one complex dynamic, or in other words, it's seems grounded in a believable reality. Each character instantly seems real, but as the film progresses they all change, grow and defy categorization. Writing and depicting complex people battling real-life drama seems right in Farhadi's wheelhouse.
Both Samir and Marie want to move forward, but they have one-foot firmly stuck in the past. Ahmad's presence complicates things, especially when he forms an unlikely bond with Samir's son - his still-current wife's boyfriend's son - Fouad. Ahmad chases to reclaim his past while Fouad tries to make sense of his. Each character cannot quite become what they want due to their inabilities to overcome what has come before.
Although not as deeply profound and moving as A Separation, The Past instantly draws you in and makes you invest in these people. It may be slow-moving for some, because Farhadi's style doesn't lend itself to massive plot twists or unnecessary scenes of action-packed gimmickry. But it is as real and raw as cinema gets.
Both Mosaffa and Bejo give riveting performances in a film that, once again, leaves us with an incredible anticipation of what is next for Asghar Farhadi.
Run Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Elyes Aguis
Written and Directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Opens locally on Friday, Feb 14, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time