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'The Past' stirs up some complicated emotions

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The Past

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Family drama in all its forms knows no boundary and translates the same from country to country. "The Past" takes into the dissolution of a relationship and the residue that can never be expunged from the experiences that are had while people spend significant amounts of time making those memories.

Following a four year separation, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris from Tehran, when his estranged French wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), asks him to finalize their divorce procedure so she can marry her new boyfriend Samir (Tahar Rahim). During his tense brief stay, Ahmad discovers the conflicting nature of Marie's relationship with her teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet). Ahmad's efforts to improve this relationship soon unveil a secret from their past.

Serving as his follow up to the award winning "A Separation", writer/director Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" is an effective slice of family drama that shows how things are never easy and very often complicated when family is involved. Farhadi unfolds it all at a very deliberate pace as we get introduced into the worlds of these characters. It's a richly layered story, as every individual elements comes to the surface in these relationships that for one way or another are torn asunder and it is all strangely compelling. The development of these stories and each character's motivations are always evolving, making for a narrative that keeps us as the viewer, engaged and guessing. This peculiar love triangle is a train wreck that you can't look away from and while it leans on the melodrama a little more then it probably should, Farhadi puts us into a family situation that is messy and even borderline ridiculous at times...and that's why it feels totally real. He shoots it all with ease, weaving in and out of the narrow streets of Paris with aplomb as the city streets that are both vibrant and empty all at the same time add to the overall atmosphere of the film. This ensemble cast embraces it all and delivers some truly fantastic performances as we explore this fluctuating period for all of these relationships.

Ali Mosaffa comes through with a thoughtful and introspective performance of a man stuck in the middle between his old life and the ability to start a new one and exudes the most compelling air of uncertainty that just makes you sympathize and relate to his strife all at the same time. The always stellar Bérénice Bejo was great as the woman in the middle who is unable to move on from her past relationship to her current one while Tahar Rahim juggles with a complicated past. These are three different people intersecting at the part of a relationship that none of them can break away from, they can only deal with it and ultimately move past it.

Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are quite solid and the special features on this combo pack release include a feature length commentary track with writer/director Asghar Farhadi, a making of "The Past" and a Director's Guild of America Q&A session with Asghar Farhadi.

While it's a film that maybe goes a notch too far with the melodrama, "The Past" is the kind of drama that you simply embrace, because it is complicated, messy and believable.

4 out of 5 stars.

"The Past" is now available to rent on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers. You can also find it available for purchase from all major retailers like HMV, amazon.ca and iTunes.

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