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Wick's Review

Created Feb 06, 2012 04:21PM PST • Edited Apr 23, 2012 11:13PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    A Separation fascinates both as an absorbing domestic drama and a lens into contemporary Iran. That compelling combination has made it a worldwide sensation, the odds-on favorite to win Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars.

    It presents two families drawn together by domestic needs who are then drawn into dire circumstances due to pique and familial love. A middle-class family’s elevated aspirations – leaving Iran; taking dignified care of a grandfather – bring them into conflict with themselves, while a lower-class family’s survival requirements bring them into conflict with the first family, each other and their creditors.

    It’s a potent brew, one that reveals a society both recognizable and confounding to Western eyes: urbane yet with deep-seated social strictures vastly different than ours. For instance, there is no sex in the story but much conflict between the sexes, while the state’s absolute authority mixes the religious with the civil.

    Beware the subtitles: They move fast to keep up with the voluminous Persian dialog.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Peyman Maadi & Leila Hatami are perfectly natural as a married couple whose conflict anchors the drama. Maadi is apparently more famous as a screenwriter than actor, though you wouldn’t know it based on his terrific performance as a husband, father and son trying to navigate conflicting obligations.

    Leila Hatami is apparently a major Iranian movie-star, which seems right given her resemblance to Ingrid Berman in both beauty and strength of character.

    Sarina Farhadi never strikes a false note as their sixth-grade daughter, by turns innocent, playful and sadly complicit.

    Sareh Bayat & Shahab Hosseini are equally natural as the lower-class couple whose financial and health issues escalate the drama. Bayat, a first time movie actress, is deeply affecting as a pious mother who finds herself in dire circumstances, while Hosseini convincingly plays a slightly unhinged guy whose psychological demons bring on catastrophe for both families.

    Finally, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi’s mute performance as an Alzheimer afflicted grandfather is essential and admirable, especially as it is apparently his first on-screen appearance.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Brilliant filmmaking, full of countless cliffhangers, all set in a quotidian domestic milieu. That said, it narrowly avoids melodrama and the numerous plot feints become somewhat annoying towards the end.

    Instead of Waiting for Godot, it plays like Waiting for Sensibility in a deeply God fearing society. However, the conclusion – waiting to see which divercing parent a pre-teen daughter will choose to live with – is a recognizable dilemma throughout the modern world, from Tehran to Tacoma.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Really Great 4.5
  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5

    A poor little girl presses her nose to the window of her mother’s upscale employer in one of many deft visual images.

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.3

    Tame but gripping. Notably, it is a domestic drama involving two young couples in which sex plays no part, notwithstanding one husband intimating otherwise. Such cinematic chasteness is fascinating from a Western POV.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Gentle 1.5
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.3
  18. Glib 1.1

    While movie conflict is the mother’s milk of drama and thus isn’t beholden to reality, this movie essays an ultra stiff-necked people who are involved in serial games of truth-or-dare over the Qur’an. These end up with magistrates who investigate and pass judgement on domestic disputes with unquestioned power.

    This inquisitorial system seems capricious, especially because it mixes religious, civil and criminal law. The recent No One Knows About Persian Cats provided another lens into the Iranian justice system.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.3
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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