Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Past

The Past
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Released December 20, 2013

Two years ago, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi made “A Separation,” a magnificent and surprising look at the effects of an impending divorce in a country where civil, mutually-consented divorces are not common. Farhadi demonstrated an exceptional ability to bring out the innermost feelings and motivations of his characters, and now he’s done that again in “The Past.” Starring two French actors who broke through to American audiences in recent Oscar-lauded films, this is another mesmerizing look at the aftermath of divorce and its devastating impact on those left in its path.

Bérénice Bejo, who charmed audiences as the adorable actress in “The Artist,” has the opportunity to play an altogether different character here. Marie has two children from her first marriage, and was also married to Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who at the start of the film arrives in France from his native country of Iran. Marie has requested a divorce from Ahmad because she is now living with Samir (Tahar Rahim, the star of “A Prophet”), whose wife is in a coma, and his young son Fouad. Ahmad’s visit turns out to be far less simple than expected, and his presence results in the revelation of some uncomfortable truths about Marie and her family.

“The Past” is an excellent and appropriate title for this film, which plays out in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, never once flashing back to that referenced time and presenting its events in a plain, stark fashion. While the past is on everyone’s mind, this film is strictly about the present, and, ultimately, the future. Farhadi has managed to make another film that truly digs deep into his characters and works to unpack their personalities over the course of its 130-minute runtime.

Bejo delivers an emotional, involving performance, demonstrating the agony she feels in not being able to piece her family together. Rahim’s turn is a melancholy, closed-off one, but like the male protagonist of “A Separation,” he’s a sympathetic character despite the absence of warmth in his personality. Most compelling, however, is Mosaffa as Ahmad. He is an exceptional father even though Marie’s children are not his own, and he is abundantly patient and kind. Watching him interact with each of Marie’s family members is extremely interesting and worthwhile, and though Bejo and Rahim get top billing, he is this film’s core. Iran’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film will go far, and it’s a worthy follow-up to Farhadi’s previous film.


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