A Separation (2011) – 4.5/5

Brilliant, engaging, well made/written/acted drama, tense and suspenseful and full of unpredictable twists and turns, and complex themes and metaphors,  and emotions so raw, they practically bleed on-screen. Not literally, though. And it’s all done cheaply and simply, without explosions or CGI or fancy tricks or anything. Just a great film, through and through.

Granted it takes a little while to get into. The movie doesn’t follow conventional plot structure in that you don’t really know what it’s going to be about until an hour or so in. That hour is still pretty good, but it serves more as an introduction to these characters and the world they live in than anything that “furthers the plot” necessarily. There’s also no one protagonist, really, or if there is, it’s only vaguely about her. She serves as the catalyst in a way for the events that take place, but not really. It doesn’t follow generic Hollywood screenwriting structure, in other words, but you know what? It still works, and how.

The acting is where the movie really shines though. It doesn’t even feel like acting at times. Maybe from the husband figure, who feels a bit off at times, not because he isn’t good, but because all the other actors in the film are so great in their brief roles that he just doesn’t come off quite as convincing in comparison. Granted he has the most screen time, and, arguably, the most to do, but, compared to the actress who plays his wife, or the guy who plays the husband of the pregnant woman, or even the girl who plays his daughter, there’s no contest.

These people give such naturalistic performances, especially the husband of the pregnant woman who just lets himself go at times with such raw, naked emotion that’s almost scary to watch at times. You just don’t see performances of this caliber in American films, that are this desperate and emotional. Maybe it’s a European thing.

And the story itself, once it gets going, is so interesting, and the way the screws keep turning on these characters, especially the last couple of wallops at the end. It’s heartbreaking and brilliant. And the themes of Iranian culture and class and how they influence the behavior of the characters, man. Volumes are spoken by the actions of these characters, about family and culture and religion and the role of men and women in society, all in the most subtle of ways.

Overall, I loved the hell out of this movie. Yes, it’s not for everyone, and yes, it’s unconventional and stylistically simplistic and deals with subject matter a world away from Hollywood and America and all that jazz, but whatever. Expand your horizons, people. This is great writing, filmmaking, acting, you name it. And a unique look at a culture that rarely gets its turn in the spotlight, at least in any positive manner. Most importantly, though, it’s good. Really good. One of the few good movies to come out in 2011. Watch it.

    • Baddu
    • March 7th, 2012

    Thanks for your uninhibited review.
    A Separation is the most complete and codensed course on Iranian sociology you could take at any institution. Lectures are given in simple short sentenses, devoid of academic jargon, in an idiom that even college drop outs like Bill Gates can follow through and not be bored! Well worth the two hours that it lasts.

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