Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013)

Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi follows up his Academy Award-winning masterpiece, A Separation, with another highly proficient family drama, The Past, which competed at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or. Being set in France, not Iran, this means that there aren’t as many cultural factors to further muddy the morals of the characters, but it deals with similar themes and is just as assured. These flawed relationships create a deeply resonating experience, featuring seemingly minor revelations that have maximum impact.

This is a simple story, the collision of two families through the meeting of Marie (Berenice Bejo, The Artist) and Samir (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet). The former is unhappy with her estranged marriage to Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who is visiting from Tehran to sign the divorce papers and ensure it ends on good terms. The latter runs a dry cleaning business of which Marie was a regular customer. Samir and his son Faoud (Elyes Aguis) are already living with Marie and her two daughters, Lucie (Pauline Burlet) and Lea (Jeanne Jestin). When Ahmad arrives Marie suggests he stay at the house and he reluctantly obliges. Stuck in a hotbed of stifling awkwardness Ahmad finds himself unwillingly immersed in their tumultuous lives; a passive observer and a rational listener whose guidance and advice is more welcomed than expected. Complex relationships fuel this deeply affecting drama which tackles mental illness, infidelity and youthful naivety wrapped up in a web of misinterpretation and painful truths.

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