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Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, Published March 16 2012

Review: 'A Separation' a look at divisions in Iranian society

'A Separation'

Theater: Fargo Theatre

Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material; in Farsi with English subtitles

Time: 123 minutes

Three and a half out of four stars

“A Separation” is totally foreign and achingly familiar.

It’s a thrilling domestic drama that offers acute insights into human motivations and behavior as well as a compelling look at what goes on behind a particular curtain that almost never gets raised.

The winner for this year’s foreign-language Oscar, this is a movie from Iran unlike any we’ve seen before. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation” is intense, focused and narrative-driven. Imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s intricate attention to plot joined to the devastating emotional impact of Ingmar Bergman.

This incisive look at Iranian society reveals, without calling any special attention to it, divisions over class, over religious observance, over political philosophy.

But what’s so inspired here is his decision to ground them all in the most personal of all separations, that between a husband and wife.

Simin (Leila Hatami) has the opportunity to leave Iran, but her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) doesn’t want to go, so she is reluctantly suing for divorce. Simin wants to leave to offer a better life to their 10-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Nader wants to stay because of his 80-something father, who has Alzheimer’s.

Frustrated, Simin leaves the family apartment and moves in with her parents. Nader, who is close to his daughter but has a noticeably inflexible side, hopes his wife will be coming back. But in the meantime, he has to hire someone to look after his father during the day.

One fascination of “A Separation” is its depiction of the day-to-day intricacies of this very particular society, the complications of a country with a definite religious/secular divide and a legal system very different from those in the West.

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