A Separation is such a rich experience it is tough to know where to begin praising it.
I suppose all praise needs to begin with the script. Asghar Farhadi's story of familial disintegration in the gears of the legal system is the rare screenplay that treats all its characters evenly, granting them all depth and dimension, seeing their flaws with compassion, and then watches with neutrality as they interact. They say the trick of good screenwriting is for the story to unfold in a way that is both inevitable and surprising, and by that standard Farhadi scores brilliantly.
After that there is cast. A Separation deserves comparison with the greatest films of Altman in the way every actor has a few moments where the whole film is riding on their performance, but together they deliver an ensemble performance greater than the sum of its parts. The Screen Actors Guild was asleep at the wheel to miss nominating this cast.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Separation is just how universal is Farhadi's picture of Iranian society. The clothes and the language and some of the customs may be different but I doubt there are any viewers who won't relate to some of the events on screen. Who hasn't been touched by the burdens of caring for the elderly? Or the struggles of holding a marriage together? And most of all who can't relate to the difficulty of seeing the world from another perspective? To understand that there can be a situation without villains and evil, where everybody operates according to their best intentions, and still fail to produce a positive outcome? A Separation is a rare and powerful film.
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